Friday, December 5, 2008

Credit Rating Service sees “Several Cities” without Daily Newspapers

A Chicago financial rating service is predicting several cities will have no newspapers by 2010. Editor and Publisher reports on a study recently released the Fitch Ratings that newspapers and newspaper groups will default on their debt in 2009 and be liquidated, leaving major cities without a daily newspaper. They cite McClatchy and Tribune in particular as being in serious jeopardy. Fitch rates the debt of two newspaper companies, The McClatchy Co. and Tribune Co. as junk, with serious possibilities of default. It also assigns a negative outlook to both the companies and the newspaper sector, meaning their credit ratings are likely to deteriorate further. A debt rating service recently cut the NY Times’ rating to junk, while another said they would revaluate it in the near future. Aside from the chains, two individual papers appear to be in deep trouble. The Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Philadelphia Inquirer suffer the same problems, both recently purchased in highly leveraged deals by inexperienced publishers. There has been some wishful thinking in the newspaper industry that debt holders wouldn’t press the publishers if they defaulted because newspapers and their assets were unmarketable. Not likely. But the best evaluators of the financial condition of newspapers are the newsprint salesmen. They know to the day when each paper made its latest payment and how much they owe. Most are tight lipped to outsiders, but the newsprint companies compare notes among themselves. And they will be the ones to pull the plug first. In the newspaper business, the second and fourth quarters are the moneymakers, especially the fourth with the heavy Christmas push by the retailers. The first and third are the worst. If things go south, they will probably happen then.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Cow Tax and Beano

Here is the latest from the EPA. They have issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking public comment on whether they should regulate greenhouse gas emissions (methane and CO2 among others). Up to now, they have been restricted to what we normally consider pollutants: toxic chemicals, particulate matter and even toxic dust and dirt from open pit mines. Essentially they have been regulating mechanical things, but their ability to regulate products naturally produced by animals and even humans, opens new doors to our faceless, non-elected bureaucrats. Would bureaucracies like the EPA want to enlarge their jurisdiction three or fourfold? You betcha! It is causing a major stir in the cattle industry which sees the potential costs of a cap and trade “cow tax” at $175 per dairy cow and $87.50 per beef cow. Flatulence of cattle has been a subject of both concern and amusement. Government funded studies are often treated with derision and conjure up mental pictures of methane sensors placed at the exhaust end of a cow, with PhD types copying the sensor data to their notebooks. In reality the multi-stomach, cud chewing cows emit most of their GHGs from the front end, not the rear. But it is a significant problem nevertheless, with cattle contributing 15 to 20% of atmospheric methane discharges worldwide. And methane is a far more potent GHG, 24 times that of CO2. Which brings me to Beano. I consider Beano to be one of the top 25 inventions of the 20th century, right alongside of television, nuclear fission, radar and the Veg-O-Matic. And it works. The active ingredient, the enzyme alpha-galactosidase, affects digestion by prematurely breaking down certain legume sugars before they reach the large intestine where they would normally ferment and produce gas. Knowing that, about two years ago I decided I would save the planet. I went to Beano’s website where I found a “contact us” box. Had more to do with customers’ problems with Beano, but I asked my missive be forwarded to the appropriate department. In it, I pointed out the problem with bovine flatulence, that perhaps Beano could provide a breakthrough solution, that Beano could be sold by the ton around the world rather than in little bottles, and that they (GlaxoSmithKline) might make a gazillion dollars. But I waited and waited for a response. Finally after three weeks, my answer came. They informed me that they did not make Beano for veterinary use and because of that, my request was denied. So much for thinking outside the box (or bottle) at GlaxoSmithKline.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The cancer of piracy

There have been 14 piracy attempts off the east coast of Africa and the Gulf of Aden in the past 10 days. It is obvious it has gotten out of hand. The trend is getting worse and will spread to other areas unless the civilized world can get a handle on it soon. Once confined to the Gulf of Aden and the near coastal waters off of Somalia, the seizure of Saudi owned super tanker Sirius Star 450 miles offshore demonstrates almost no area of the Indian Ocean is safe. Complicating this is the common practice of paying ransom to the pirates. This only exacerbates the problem by guaranteeing them profitability. And the typical European weenie attitude isn’t helping either. According to the Times of London, the British Foreign Office recently advised the Royal Navy that they shouldn’t detain pirates because “it may breach their human rights” and “also risk that captured pirates could claim asylum in Britain.” Other countries simply have no taste for prosecuting and incarcerating these threats to maritime safety. The Italians, never known for their backbone, released Abu Abbas, ringleader of the Achille Lauro hijacking, after his plane was forced down in Italy by US fighter planes. It will take a lot more than setting up a NATO, or worse yet, an EU naval force to take care of the problem. Each European country wants to set its own rules of engagement or authorize the use of force on an individual incident basis. At a moment when a pirate boat is within yards of a freighter with grappling hooks, you don’t have time to call a ministers’ conference in Germany or France to deal with it. Here are a few suggestions: 1. Develop the resolve for what needs to be done. Use of deadly force must be authorized in advance. On the scene commanders are the ones who must call the shots, not Prime Ministers. Countries who don’t want to play by these rules should be excluded. 2. Develop a plan, including a legal framework, for what will be done with captured pirates. Right now, in theory, under the International Law of the Sea, the capturing country may try the prisoners in their own country or turn them over to another for trial, unless they permit torture or otherwise violate human rights (death penalty). That of course excludes the US. This will be the main sticking point. Europeans simply don’t want to be stuck with the liability of Muslim pirates in their jurisdictions, and the consequences of their release. 3. Use the intelligence assets we have. The same techniques we use to find, identify and track Al Qaida terrorists in Iraq can be used here. Pirates communicate. There is no way they just stumbled on the Sirius Star or the Ukrainian vessel Faina, carrying 33 T-72 tanks. They were given sailing their orders by someone, and they didn’t come by snail mail. Identify the pirates' mother ships. Board them when they hit international waters. Or simply make them disappear. Or both. 4. Consider the use of convoys. There are over 18,000 ships using the Suez Canal, that transit the piracy prone Gulf of Aden each year. That’s 50 a day. There are not enough warships to escort each one. During both World Wars, the best defense against submarines was the convoy system. There, 8 to 12 escorts would provide protection for 45 to 60 transports. Initially the merchant skippers disdained them, preferring to take their chances going solo. They didn’t like having to wait for a convoy to form up, or having to reduce speed to match the slowest vessel. But it turned out be the most effective protection, especially early in WWII. 5. Insurance companies must get involved. They, at minimum, should require ship’s crews to have training in repelling boarders. Some techniques already being used effectively are fairly simple, such as high pressure water hoses. Posting watches using night vision and FLIR devices and 24/7 radar watches while in the danger zone would help. But as we found during WWII, naval gun crews proved far more effective than merchant mariners in providing defense. Whether civilian contractors such as Blackwater or NATO marines, dedicated forces would do a better job than lightly trained ship’s crew. The cancer of piracy will spread if nothing is done. It is spreading already. It will spread into the Red Sea and the Med. At some point civilized nations will have to act. The sooner the better.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Living with dinosaurs

Well not actually, but alligators are among their nearest living relatives. Having them as neighbors takes some getting used to. Sort of like hurricanes. While they are dangerous, they are nothing like the crocodiles shown on TV documentaries. They don’t run after you, despite urban legends to the contrary. They aren’t very bright, but they do like a lot of the things we humans enjoy too. Their three desires are: They like to eat, the like to sit in the sun all day (helps them digest their food) and they like the company of the opposite sex, if you know what I mean. That’s about all. Did I say they aren’t very bright? 

During the seventies, alligator hunting was banned. That hurt a lot of Florida “crackers” who made some extra money selling the hides and meat. Government authorities were warned there would be a population explosion and an inevitable conflict with the burgeoning human population. And that did happen, first with pets, mainly dogs and later with attacks on humans. The state of Florida eventually allowed the “culling” of alligators over 4 feet in an effort to placate the alligators’ uneasy neighbors. But on eco-friendly Sanibel, where I live, the attitude was “They were here first,” we should learn to live with them. Sanibel went several steps beyond the state. Only 8 footers (small monster size) were eligible for “culling” and only if they were determined to be threatening.

I live on a golf course, the Dunes, that is mostly lakes and an alligator heaven. In one humorous incident about 10 years ago a lady called the county police about a monster 13 footer she said was behaving aggressively. The county police arrived and dispatched the gator post-haste. Only one problem, this was “Big Al,” a fixture at the Dunes and beloved by many. City Council threw a hissy fit and mandated that only gator friendly city police be involved in the future. But in short order the alligators began misbehaving. An 81 year old environmental activist and contributor to the local paper, was walking his dog near some open water. The dog apparently started yipping at a gator. The gator naturally went after the dog and the owner tried to intervene. Big mistake and he didn’t survive. Two other incidents occurred 3 years later, one fatal and the other with a woman pretty well mauled.

Now we are a popular resort island and for some reason alligator attacks seem to play well in out of town papers. That gets the local Chamber of Commerce all out of joint. Anyway, business interests got the better of things, and now anything over 4 feet is now eligible for “trapping” if anyone thinks an alligator is aggressive. And trapping means it will be served as an hors d’oeuvre in some fancy Midwest restaurant and the remainder will end up as Gucci handbag. 

Most of the alligator aggressiveness comes from the actions of well meaning people who feed them. Alligators are normally fearful of humans and will retreat from an encounter as fast as the human. But when fed, they lose their fear of humans. When a gator snuzzles you it’s a lot different from a dog. And a lot more dangerous. In reality the human’s act of friendship will turn out to be a death warrant for the gator.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Whither the Big 3

Democrats are going to do what they do best, throw money at a problem. They are proposing $25 billion in loans to the Big 3. No doubt there will be strings attached, big, long strings. What the Democrats priorities are will determine whether the domestic auto industry survives or not. Most likely it will be to save as many UAW jobs as possible. While that sounds great, the last thing the Big 3 needs is more UAW workers. Nor do they need an auto czar to micromanage what cars are produced or mandate or forbid sales of certain models. Despite Democrats desires, the big three as well as Toyota and Nissan made gobs of money off of SUVs. That’s where the market was. And the survival of the industry rests more from what people will buy, than what is politically correct to manufacture. Throwing money around subverts the UAW and industry’s need to face economic realities. Just like a recent auction of a real estate development where the distressed seller opted out of the auction price because he felt he could make more from government largesse, there is no incentive for the UAW to reduce costs. Uncle Sam will prop them up. While many place the blame on Big 3’s management for agreeing to untenable UAW demands, that is simply hogwash. If you have ever experienced the whipsaw tactics of unions, you would understand. With your competitors operating, very few companies can withstand a two or three month strike. Not only will you permanently lose market share, you are bled dry by fixed costs. It becomes a choice of going out of business now or postponing it for 5 years. Most bet on waiting for a miracle. Congress has been pushing for a merger between GM and Chrysler. You might ask why GM needs Chrysler. Surely they don’t need more assembly plants. Surely they don’t need to fund the shortfall in Chrysler’s pension plan. Surely they don’t need to fund their retiree benefits. They have sufficient models. They don’t need Jeep when the have GMC. It is a lose-lose proposition. The best solution is for GM to file for bankruptcy. They need out of some of the more burdensome UAW work rules. Just like the airlines, companies after bankruptcy evolve into a leaner and more flexible operations. As far as the rest, their best bet is to find offshore partners. Ford probably can, but Chrysler most likely is toast no matter what happens.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The fix is in. The media’s iron wall of silence still prevails.

Four years ago when John Kerry was running for president, he got caught up in the Swift Boat controversy. He blamed his defeat on his failure to respond promptly and forcefully to the allegations. What was really at play here was he felt confident the story would be spiked by the MSM and never get legs. But that didn’t happen. Through conservative websites, Fox News and talk radio, the myth of war hero John Kerry was quickly demolished. The first to go was the Christmas in Cambodia fairy tale. Here Kerry blamed President Nixon for ordering him into Cambodia during Christmas 1968. His oft repeated story was “etched in his memory.” Only problem, Nixon wasn’t President yet and couldn’t have ordered it. The iron wall of media silence cracked and the story did get legs.

Not so in 2008. When John McCain recently accused the NY Times of being an arm of the DNC, he just scratched the surface. Hot button stories, harmful to Obama, are simply ignored all over. When KMOV TV in St. Louis picked up on the fact St. Louis law enforcement officials were forming “truth squads” to actively challenge and prosecute “lies” by Obama opponents in political ads, the story went unreported in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. When Missouri Republican Governor Blunt issued a strongly worded press release condemning the strong arm tactics, again the Post Dispatch ignored it. The most recent example is the handling of the Ayers/Obama connection. This has been a no-go area for the media up to recently. Now the NY Times has taken a new tack. It now publishes “whitewash” stories to preempt any valid criticism. Here’s an example from today’s Times.

Mr. McCain’s reference to Mr. Ayers’s desire to carry out more bombings was from an article in The New York Times, published by chance on Sept. 11, 2001, about Mr. Ayers and his memoir, “Fugitive Days.” The article opened with a quotation: “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.” Three days later, Mr. Ayers wrote on his Web site that the meaning of his remarks had been distorted. Most of the bombings attributed to the Weathermen were meant to damage only property, but a 1970 pipe bombing in San Francisco attributed to the group killed a police officer and severely hurt another. Mr. Ayers is now a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and lives in Mr. Obama’s neighborhood. He was named citizen of the year in Chicago in 1997, has worked with Mr. Obama on a schools project and a charitable board, and gave a house party when Mr. Obama was running for the State Senate.

This is laughable. McCain quotes the NY Times, and the Times tries to refute its own story by saying Ayers wrote on his own website it was distorted. Wow! This is almost as bad as the Washington Post calling McCain a liar (two Pinocchios) when he quoted a Post story word for word that former and discredited Fannie Mae chief Franklin Raines was giving financial advice to the Obama campaign. I guess the lesson here is that the two leading papers consider themselves unreliable. The world is coming around.

How does the MSM maintain such discipline? Part of it is the liberal monoculture at the top levels of the news gathering organizations. You simply won’t get ahead as an aspiring reporter if you stray too far from the plantation. Rush Limbaugh has another take. He see evidence of “Democrat talking points” being shared and repeated by the networks. The most dramatic evidence of this was in August 2000, when network news commentators started accusing presidential hopeful George Bush of lacking “gravitas.” For a term used infrequently, according to Lexis Nexis, it began being used on news broadcasts hundreds of times a week. Rush now plays, almost daily, a montage of liberal catch phrases, simultaneously regurgitated by the MSM. His take is this is, it can’t be sheer coincidence and must be orchestrated. The only chinks in the MSM armor are a handful of papers and Fox News.

About a year an a half ago the DNC tried to marginalize holdout Fox by urging presidential hopefuls to boycott Fox's debate, co-sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus. Bill Clinton’s blowup with Chris Wallace was another effort to accomplish it. Of course this failed when Hillary appeared on O’Reilly in May in an attempt to rescue her failing effort for the nomination.

How do we stop this biased coverage? There is no magic bullet. But remember the liberal media is populated with big egos. They go berserk when their integrity is challenged. So challenge their integrity. Write letters to the editor with valid points and document them. Patrick Frey at Patterico’s Pontifications has an ongoing open correspondence with the reader’s representative of the LA Times. He points out conflicts of interest by reporters, questions the airbrushing of stories, and challenges the accuracy of many. When the LA Times fails to respond, he writes about it on his blog. At the end of the year he publishes a compendium of misdeeds at the Times, which he refers to as the dog trainer. Subscribe to a conservative competitor. If you live in the Washington DC area, subscribe to the Examiner or the Washington Times.

Fox News became an instant success when CNN didn’t provide unbiased coverage and conservatives flocked to them. Don’t patronize those who provide consistently inaccurate or slanted news. Share your thoughts with others. By the end of October we will learn how much damage the newspapers have done to themselves. That’s when the Audit Bureau of Circulation releases the latest 6 month figures for newspapers. Based on the most recent reports, it’s not going to be pretty. Also by then the NY Times will have released its Q3 revenue and earnings (or lack thereof) figures.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

McCain's October surprise, a Clinton?

On Tuesday I noted Bill Clinton was making life difficult for Obama with not so subtle comments to the media favorable of Sarah Palin. Well, he was at it again today, big time. This time he’s singing the praises of John McCain on the ABC’s News segment on Good Morning America. Speaking with Chris Cuomo, Clinton supported John McCain’s decision to suspend his campaign, skip the debates and return to Washington to address financial meltdown. This from ABC/Political Radar: "We know he didn't do it because he's afraid because Sen. McCain wanted more debates," Clinton said, adding that he was "encouraged" by the joint statement from McCain and Sen. Barack Obama. This portion of the interview wasn’t reported by ABC/Political Radar. It’s the most significant portion of it. Via Newbusters: Going very much against the media meme that the current financial crisis is all George W. Bush and the Republicans' fault, Bill Clinton on Thursday told ABC's Chris Cuomo that Democrats for years have been "resisting any efforts by Republicans in the Congress or by me when I was President to put some standards and tighten up a little on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac" These aren’t slips of the tongue. Bill Clinton just doesn’t do that. And it isn’t bitterness. Bill looks ahead, not behind. But something John McCain said on CBS/Face the Nation on September 7 might have relevance. Here’s CNN’s report: Promising a "very bipartisan approach" to how he'll run his administration, Sen. John McCain said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he would appoint Democrats to his Cabinet. Speaking to CBS' "Face the Nation," the Republican presidential nominee vowed that he won't just have a single token Democrat in his Cabinet. "It's going to be the best people in America, the smartest people in America," McCain said. "So many of these problems we face -- for example, energy independence -- what's partisan about that?" Could this be McCain’s October Surprise, an announcement of a Clinton in his Cabinet? Hillary as Secretary of Health and Human Services? Nothing surprises me in this election, especially when it involves the Clintons.

Nailing Obama

There is hope for newspapers. Here’s something straight from the heartland that absolutely nails Obama. Not only does the author, David Deming write a column for the local newspaper but he is an academic, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma. Here is his latest column from the Edmond (OK) Sun. Read it in full. When Benjamin Franklin was dispatched to France as ambassador of the United States in 1776, he won the hearts of the French through his authenticity. Rather than take on an affected and phony continental style, Franklin eschewed the powdered wig of the European gentleman and donned the fur cap of an American frontiersman. Original genius and polymath, Franklin understood that the French would see through any false pretension but respect an authenticity that sprang from an unpretentious and naive love of country. What a contrast there is between Franklin and Barack Obama. Obama is a Harvard lawyer who is a mile wide and an inch deep. He is only the latest in a long line of shallow elites that consider it stylish and intellectual to despise their own culture and heritage. Nothing exemplifies Obama’s antipathy for American culture better than his statement that Americans “cling to” religion and guns out of frustration or bitterness. We only can suppose that Obama regards religion or firearms as aberrations that need to be eradicated He continues: The American Revolution started when the British marched to Concord with the intention of confiscating colonial arms. Both the right to “keep and bear arms” and the right to “free exercise” of religion are enshrined in the Bill of Rights. We have come a long way when the presidential nominee of a major political party regards the exercise of fundamental rights as a mental aberration. More: The choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate has been devastating for the Obama campaign precisely because she is everything Obama is not. Palin is not ashamed of her culture or country. She is not embarrassed by being an American, but naively embraces her birthright. Unassisted by affirmative action, Palin has risen to national prominence on the basis of her character, intelligence and natural gifts. In a word, she has guts. This is a woman who is proud of her country, not because it has granted her personal success, but because she respects what America stands for: freedom, opportunity, and individualism. Obama is a vapid demagogue, a hollow man that despises American culture. He is ill-suited to be president of the United States. As the weeks pass, more Americans will come to this realization and elect McCain/Palin in a landslide. What a breath of fresh air!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Updated

On 9/11 there was a face to face luncheon meeting between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. It was held in Harlem in a private dining room adjacent to Clinton’s 14th floor office. Ostensibly it was to soothe the wounds from the long and bitter campaign. The meeting was between the two of them with each allowed a single aide. And it wasn’t to talk about what they would wear at the inaugural ball. Ask yourself what would be the number one question for each to ask the other. For Obama it would be, what would it take for you and Hillary to get on board my campaign with some serious support? Would a UN ambassadorship do it, or how about the Court of St. James’s (London)? As for Clinton, there is only one question for Barack. Do you want to win? And the only way to do it is with Hillary on the ticket. Will you dump Biden? Is there a secret deal as this widely circulated email alleges?

Let me share some info with you that I have gotten from excellent sources within the DNC: On or about October 5th, Biden will excuse himself from the ticket, citing health problems, and he will be replaced by Hillary. This is timed to occur after the VP debate on 10/2.”

Fat chance! All you have to do is listen to Clinton and see the knife going into Obama’s back day after day. It isn’t pretty. This is from last Thursday:

Bill Clinton said in an interview Thursday that “it would be a mistake to underestimate” Sarah Palin, adding that he’s not surprised by the bounce John McCain saw in the polls after naming the Alaska governor as his running mate. “She is an instinctively effective candidate with a compelling story,” Clinton told CNBC. “And I think it was exciting to some that she was a woman, that she is from Alaska.” And again yesterday (from Fox): Former President Bill Clinton said Monday he understands why Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is popular in the American heartland: because people relate to her. “I come from Arkansas, I get why she’s hot out there, why she’s doing well.”

Anyone who thinks things will calm down, they won’t. Bill is costing Obama the election and Obama knows it.

Update, September 24 Democrats are are noticing this and reacting bitterly. Here’s one from Paul Slansky over at HuffPo. Read it all.

But that's not what you're doing, Bill, and it's not going unnoticed. We see your rage, Bill, it's too huge to hide. We see that -- as Chris Rock so brilliantly pointed out -- it pains you to even speak Obama's name. We see you petulantly rooting against him even as you go through the motions of doing the barest minimum on his behalf to avoid being blamed if he loses.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Saving history

As I watch the troubled newspaper world, I find myself with mixed emotions. I take a bit of pleasure watching those papers that have taken such a partisan tone on their news pages pay the price in lost circulation and revenue shortfalls. But in other areas I am concerned. It saddened me to read this “Letter from the Editor” of the NY Sun that ran September 4. In part it reads: Dear Readers of the Sun: This morning I write to you about the future of The New York Sun, which is in circumstances that may require us to cease publication at the end of September unless we succeed in our efforts to find additional financial backing. The managing editor, Ira Stoll, who is one of the founding partners in the paper, and I have shared this news with our colleagues, and we would like our readers as well to be aware of the situation. There are no white knights out there and it appears the worst will happen. The most tragic consequence of a newspaper dying is the loss of its historical articles. Yes there are microfilm copies of my old paper, the Washington Star, but you have to go to the Library of Congress to find them. Today’s researchers don’t have enough time to do that. Even in the digital age when a paper closes, their archives may be lost unless someone comes along to manage them. Google is working on a massive project to digitize all back issues of newspapers in their Digital Archive Project. This will allow researchers to access online previously irretrievable information. Many newspapers have given up maintaining their archives for non employees and gone to outside services on a pay for play basis. Gannett’s is the worst and totally unusable unless you don’t mind going through 13,000 articles to find the result of a three word search. In anticipation of the worst, I have been searching and copying articles from the Sun that may be of historical interest. Four years ago they were the only newspaper to do an in depth analysis of John Kerry’s military status and discharge. This is an outstanding article and you can find it here. I have saved it (I had to copy the text into MS Word). You may want to do the same.

North Korea, where are the Chinese?

Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) -- South Korea may suspend planned energy supply to North Korea if the communist regime accelerates processes for restarting its nuclear reactor, Yonhap news agency reported. North Korea has begun restoring three facilities at the Yongbyon site, including a fuel rod plant, the 5-megawatt reactor and reprocessing equipment, Yonhap said, citing a diplomatic official it didn't name Well here we go again. I mistakenly felt confident in June when North Korea destroyed the cooling tower for its plutonium production reactor. If for any reason they went back on their agreement, the reconstruction of the tower would provide several months’s warning of their intent. We have that warning now. Former UN Ambassador John Bolton’s stern warnings that President Bush had seriously miscalculated now have proven true. Trusting North Korea on anything without a lock and a key is always a miscalculation. History has proven this. Whether it was Jimmy Carter, Madeline Albright or willing fool Ted Turner, they all ended up with egg on their faces trying to negotiate with the Kim regime. The real question in this mess is where do the Chinese stand? They were the critical factor in backing the North Koreans down at the 6-party talks. China has their own motives to halt Kim’s nuclear plans. They know and fear Japan’s reaction. Japan will go nuclear when North Korea has a credible nuclear offensive capability. A nuclear Japan would throw a monkey wrench into China’s long term efforts to become the dominant power in the Far East. Unless there are some dramatic signs of pressure from the Chinese, it looks as if all they wanted was two weeks of peace and quiet in the Far East for their showpiece Olympic Games.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The power of Palin

Sarah Palin’s appearance on ABC World News Tonight on September 11 and 12 vaulted them from second place to first among total viewers. From a half a million behind, they beat NBC by over a half a million with only two days of Palin. Lest you think this a fluke, it’s the first time ABC was number one since the week of May 26. 9/08-12 Total Viewers: ABC: 8,880,000 / NBC: 8,360,000 / CBS: 6,210,000 (Palin ABC 11&12) 9/01-05 Total Viewers: NBC: 8,230,000 / ABC: 7,700,000 / CBS: 5,530,000 (No Palin) Source: Mediabistro Likewise on cable last night, perennial number two Hannity and Colmes whupped O’Reilly by over a million with Ms. Palin. CABLE RACE, WED, SEPT 17 FOXNEWS HANNITY/COLMES 4,921,000 FOXNEWS O'REILLY 3,839,000 FOXNEWS GRETA 3,561,000 FOXNEWS SHEP SMITH 2,184,000 FOXNEWS HUME 2,108,000 MSNBC OLBERMANN 1,854,000 CNN COOPER 1,719,000 MSNBC RACHEL MADDOW 1,716,000 CNN KING 1,646,000 MSNBC HARDBALL 1,145,000 Source: Drudge Next week, Sarah will be on last place CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. With the world hungry for more Palin, the effects will likely be the same, but unlikely to move CBS into second place. Now here’s the conflict for the network news producers. Do you risk offending Sarah Palin and not having her back, or in the case of NBC and ABC being fair and ensuring yourself more weekly first places? Tough choices. That's the power of Palin.

The real meaning of "lipstick on a pig"

During my career in the newspaper business, there were times I was called on to use creative writing techniques to cover what were truly disasters. Never was anything I did as creative as this. Never. The company said advertising revenue at The New York Times, Boston Globe, International Herald Tribune and other newspapers slipped 16 percent combined last month compared with August 2007. That's better than the 18 percent year-over-year advertising drops the company reported for June and July….

Both are unmitigated disasters

This is truly lipstick on a pig.

Moral sickness at AP

This from Editor & Publisher (emphasis added) WASHINGTON Hackers broke into the Yahoo! e-mail account that Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin used for official business as Alaska's governor, revealing as evidence a few inconsequential personal messages she has received since John McCain selected her as his running mate. "This is a shocking invasion of the governor's privacy and a violation of law. The matter has been turned over to the appropriate authorities and we hope that anyone in possession of these e-mails will destroy them," the McCain campaign said in a statement. The Secret Service contacted The Associated Press on Wednesday and asked for copies of the leaked e-mails, which circulated widely on the Internet. The AP did not comply. The reason the FBI wants the e-mails isn’t to review the content, as E & P implies, it is to find the sender/s addresses, so they can trace down the hackers. Only the AP knows the sender/s and they refused to comply. There is a moral sickness at AP. Whether they are trying to equate this to a “shield law” situation, which it is not, or simply show their disdain for the Secret Service and the Republican VP nominee, it puts them on the side of the hackers. Not good company to have. One wonders what their attitude would be if an email had been sent to them warning of the 9/11 attacks. Would they share the email/sender address with the FBI, or protect their source? Sick.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bad times for newspapers

McClatchy To Trim 10% of Workforce -- August Revenue Down 17% 'Star-Ledger' Publisher Threatens January 2009 Shutdown Gannett Reports Ad Revenue Off 16.8% for August Fort Worth Daily Selling Its Historic Headquarters 'Rushville Republican' Drops a Day's Edition 'OC Register' for Sale? 'Sac Bee' Buyouts Cut Staff 7% -- Second Reduction Since June Three Montana Papers Announce New Round of Layoffs 'Novato Advance' to Fold This Month 'Star-Ledger' Newsroom Buyout Count Low -- As Deadline Nears N.J.'s Largest Paper Goes Without AP For a Day -- Protest or Test? Gannett to Re-Org, Cut 100 Management Positions Nevada 'Daily' Will Drop Three Days 'Orange County Register' Studying Switch to Tabloid Washington 'Olympian' Faces More Cuts, Just as Exec. Editor Retires The above are headlines of major trade news stories for the past 7 days (9/9-16) in Editor & Publisher. It is a sign of the malaise the industry is going through. The Gannett and McClatchy ad revenue drops are devastating. They are the country's two largest newspaper chains. Three months ago, monthly year to year figures were in the minus 10 to 13% range. Now it's 17. The downward trend is accelerating. Most significant of these stories is the one about the threatened closure of the Newark Star-Ledger if all unions don’t reach agreement on a designated number of buyouts. The Drivers are balking. The publisher has said the next step will be to sell the paper and barring that, to close it. There simply aren’t any buyers for newspapers now, so this isn’t an idle threat. AP isn’t exempt from problems either. Their member papers have been chafing under the burden of high rates. About a year ago, the AP revised its rate structure to help the smaller papers and allow the larger ones to buy certain services on an a la carte basis. Still many are thinking of withdrawing and some already have given notice. In recent months, several newspapers have announced plans to drop the news service, with at least one -- The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash. -- challenging AP's two-year notice requirement. Other dailies that have already given notice to AP are The Bakersfield Californian, The Star Tribune of Minneapolis, The Post Register of Idaho Falls, and The Yakima Herald-Republic and Wenatchee World, both of Washington. Yet throughout this doom and gloom, E & P parrots the same liberal line as most newpapers, totally oblivious to the damage such partisanship is doing to their industry. Here are E & P's stories on the election. Pretty one-sided. Economists Favor Obama in Massive Survey Conducted by 'Dilbert' Cartoonist McCain Tells AP and Newspaper Editors: OK, Obama Did NOT Call Palin a 'Pig' Media Confirms: Palin Exaggerated Trip to Iraq LexisNexis Study Finds No Media Bias Against Palin, GOP -- So Far Will Public Believe McCain 'Doublespeak' -- Or the Press? AP Hits Palin for Not Taking Questions I keep wondering how liberal editorial minds work. All I can surmise is these stories are their psychological release, their only joyful moments, before the inevitable doomsday. Sick.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Chevy Volt

Updated. One of the highlights of the 2008 Olympic TV coverage was the General Motors commercial, with Brandi Carlile’s hauntingly beautiful music. But the commercial that caused a stir, also a masterpiece, was the one for the Chevy Volt. GM announced the Volt in 2007 at the Detroit Auto Show and it immediately captured the imagination of the trade press and the general public. Designed as a 4 passenger, 40 mile range electric vehicle with a range extending internal combustion engine, it overcomes the impracticalities of GM’s first production effort for an electric car, the EV-1. The EV-1 was a good faith effort by GM to fulfill the California Air Resources Board mandate to the 7 major auto manufacturers to sell 2% of their California cars as zero emission vehicles. Eventually 10% would have to conform. The EV-1 was a totally purpose built car, not a conversion of an existing model as all the other manufacturers did. Tooling was designed for high volume production including very expensive injection molding dies for the lightweight body panels. But the very concept of a battery operated ZEV is flawed, but this was and will be the only practical ZEV technology for many years. The fundamental problem with battery only cars is the “stranding factor.” If you run out of “fuel” in an electric, you can’t just call road service for a gallon of electrons to get you to the nearest filling station. You need a tow home or to a recharging station with a several hour wait to fill up. Try that with screaming kids in the back of the car, or worse yet, your mother-in-law. Where the EV-1 missed the mark, the Volt nails it. GM’s research shows an average daily commute of 35 to 40 miles. So it aimed at that mark for battery-only operation with a backup engine capable of operating the car without reduced performance. The engine drives the wheels through a generator via the battery pack. According to Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman of GM the Volt will cost about $1 for electricity for the first 40 miles, as opposed to $4 under engine power (40 mpg, $4 gas = 10¢/mile). The Volt will have better energy recovery from braking or coasting down hills than the current Prius because of a far larger battery capacity. Energy recovery is the most important reason for the Prius’s phenomenal mileage. Many of the Volt’s specs remain shrouded in mystery, but reading through statistics released by GM it appears the battery will be about 16 kWh of which only about 8 will be used in an effort to extend battery life. Recharging from a standard 120v/15a outlet will take about 5.5 hours, a comfortable overnight charge. GM’s biggest challenge and greatest risk is the battery pack. They are working with technology that is less than 5 years old, that they have been testing for less than a year. And they intend to have it on the market in 2 years (by the end of year 2010). And they plan to warrant them for 10 years/150,000 miles. They have expressed confidence in the longevity and durability of the packs, but costs are still a problem. The Volt’s original target price of $30,000 has risen to high 30s and now, “we’re not sure.” First year production is now pegged at 10,000 which should keep a tight market for the intended initial purchasers, technology buffs with fat wallets. The Volt is an exciting concept. It holds the promise of significantly reducing the use of petroleum products. It may not satisfy the “purists” who want only ZEVs, but until fuel cells can be made competitive and hydrogen produced from non-fossil fuel sources, it is a giant step in the right direction. Update Sept. 16: GM rolled out the production version of the Volt today to celebrate its 100th anniversary. See the article and video here. Actually looks better than the artist’s rendering. Everyone wanted the long hood look of the prototype shown at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show. That just couldn’t be. Aero considerations require a highly sloped windshield and a narrower, longer body, especially for 70 mph highway speeds. GM did a great job considering the constraints they were operating under. Still I was hoping for the lightning bolt headlights in the rendering.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Rathergate remembered

Four years ago today, Sept. 8 2004, Dan Rather aired his infamous and decidedly false 60 Minutes Wednesday piece on CBS. It ultimately caused his own ouster from CBS Nightly News, not the piece’s intended victim, President George W. Bush. It was a cataclysmic event, forever shattering the MSM’s sacrosanct position as the sole arbiter of news. The internet effectively challenged CBS and won. Two events involving the internet have shaken the MSM like no others. Both involve patently liberal bias. And both were victories for the internet. The first was the Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton sex and perjury story. Newsweek had the story in type ready to run, and spiked at the very last moment. Two days later Drudge broke it and you know about the rest. Instantly Matt Drudge was a household name, and the Drudge Report at or near the top of the ratings. It became the go-to site for so many, including media types, for top news headlines. The second and most important was Rathergate. Within hours of airing a documentary asserting Bush had shirked his duty in the Texas Air National Guard and received preferential treatment, conservative voices challenged the documents CBS had posted on its website documenting the segment’s assertions. A lawyer from Atlanta posted on Free Republic questioning the typography in the documents, pointing out it appeared to be Times New Roman a photocomposition typeface, not in use on typewriters. He also questioned the variable spacing and superscript in the memos. Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs went one better. To him the documents looked like they had been composed on a modern day computer. So he retyped one of them in MS Word in the default settings. He then superimposed his over one of the Killian documents, and except for distortions from Xeroxing it multiple times, they were identical in typeface, spacing and line breaks. Instantly a firestorm ensued from conservative blogs. Drudge steered readers to them. Lightly read blogs such as Powerline, Captains Quarters,and Little Green Footballs became instant hits. They chimed in with their expertise overwhelming the timid coverage of the MSM. New blogs started such as Rathergate concentrating on this one issue. Of the MSM, only the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz and ABC News gave it serious coverage. The New Your Times covered it with wire service reports and an occasional article by Frank Rich, their uber liberal art and TV critic. The rest is history. After 12 days (Sept. 20), CBS publicly repudiated the validity of the documents. Rather also made a public statement in part saying, “if I knew then what I know now – I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired.” Subsequently an independent panel, commissioned by CBS came to the conclusion the segment shouldn’t have aired. Precisely 26 weeks to the day after the segment ran, Rather had his last day anchor chair of CBS Nightly News.
It is my understanding Rathergate.com will be giving a day by day repeat of coverage as it happened four years ago. The media still doesn’t appreciate how badly it is perceived. Rathergate.com makes sure the reading public knows it. Follow what happened four years ago there.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Is Obama cheating?

To say I was impressed with Sarah Palin’s speech at the convention is an understatement. Her delivery and her ability to land telling body blows on her opponents, with a smile, was simply outstanding. And then to learn she had done this without the full use of a teleprompter is even more impressive. She didn’t miss a beat and appeared more natural in her delivery later in her speech. Curt over at Flopping Aces has the same admiration for Palin and points out the difference in Obama's response in a video when he had similar telprompter problems. Lots of uhhs and errs, and he never does complete the sentence he started. But the more I watch that video, the more the problem isn’t one of a teleprompter. He isn’t working from a teleprompter, he is moving. But he gets totally hung up after saying “…it would cost us.” He gets hung up three or four times and seems to be looking for help on a dollar amount he can’t remember. He glances up and to his right. Finally he finishes by saying “I can’t hear myself.” Could it be Obama is doing precisely what Democrats accused President Bush of doing in the 2004 debates? That was when they thought they saw a “lump” under the back of his suit jacket and said it was a radio receiver. Could it be Obama had a loss of signal or some interference problem that blocked reception and then moved around trying for a clearer signal? Modern hearing aids have 5 mm dia. earpieces that fit loosely in the ear canal. Their batteries are only slightly larger. It is not inconceivable that small radio receive could be made the same size and be totally hidden in the ear canal. Is Obama using outside help in his ad lib talks? Something is funny. You decide.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a dreamland and a visual delight. The weather is perfect, clear with highs in the high 70s and lows in the 40s. As soon as the sun comes up, it warms right up. Today is just another perfect California day. Here are some photos. The last three are from the Hellman-Ehrman mansion, now a California state park. Scroll down a bit for additional photos. Try as I may, I can't get blogger to let me tuck the photos directly under each other.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Blogging lite

Blogging will be light for the next 11 days. Julie and I are taking some time away from Florida to visit the Lake Tahoe area, Yosemite and Sequoia. It is leg 3 of a 4 summer odyssey that will take us next year to Alaska on the ferry. I have several articles in the works, but they are taking longer than planned. I am concerned I will lose my momentum as traffic builds on this site but I will put my nose to the grindstone when I return. In the meantime I’ll post some photo stories about the trip.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Modern journalism

For those who think today’s j-schools are graduating the brightest and the best ever, read this from the NY Times: Correction: August 16, 2008 An article on Friday about the planned construction of two large solar power installations in California described incorrectly the operation of the solar panels in one, to be built by SunPower. Its panels pivot from east to west to follow the sun over the course of a day — not west to east.

Uplifting words of an outcaste

In case you missed it, Saturday’s New York Times carries this interview of Chandra Bhan Prasad, a reporter for an English language newspaper in India. It is about the positive effects India’s liberalized economy have had in breaking down India’s caste system. Prasad is a Dalit, the caste formerly referred to as untouchables, and he is leading the charge to eliminate discrimination based on caste. It is an uplifting story.

His latest crusade is to argue that India’s economic liberalization is about to do the unthinkable: destroy the caste system. The last 17 years of new capitalism have already allowed his people, or Dalits, as they call themselves, to “escape hunger and humiliation,” he says, if not residual prejudice.

His take on government’s current efforts to address the problem is interesting and reflects current differences in the US of addressing our racial problems.

Mr. Prasad is a contrarian. He calls government welfare programs patronizing. He dismisses the countryside as a cesspool. Affirmative action is fine, in his view, but only to advance a small slice into the middle class, who can then act as role models. He calls English “the Dalit goddess,” able to liberate Dalits.

This one gave me a chuckle. I am surprised it got by the Times’ editors.

Along with India’s economic policies, once grounded in socialist ideals, Mr. Prasad has moved to the right. He is openly and mischievously contemptuous of leftists. “They have a hatred for those who are happy,” he said.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The unfairness of Fairness

On Wednesday evening Stanley Kurtz, an investigative reporter for National Review, appeared with host Milt Rosenberg on Chicago’s WGN, for a two hour of talk discussing the Obama/Ayers relationship. The switchboard lit up with hundreds of calls orchestrated by the Obama campaign attempting to shut the interview down. The following is from show producer Zack Christenson:

It’s interesting to see what lengths the Obama campaign is willing to reach to stifle dissenting voices. Kurtz said it best at the end of the show- If a respected conservative who writes for mainstream conservative publications like the Weekly Standard and National Review can’t speak his mind, then what dissenting opinion can be voiced? Did we see a preview of the fairness doctrine tonight?

This is just one more desperate effort to keep any discussion of the Obama/Ayers connection from “getting legs.” Obama supporters have bombarded TV stations carrying American Issues Project commercials with over 90,000 emails and tried to bully their advertisers. They have filed complaints with the FEC seeking to have the commercials banned. They have urged the Justice department to investigate AIP’s officers, directors and contributors. It is a thuggish effort to stifle free speech. But it is just dancing in the daisies compared to what Democrats really want. They want the Fairness Doctrine back. They want Rush off the air. The Fairness Doctrine is doublethink for a system that will eliminate political discourse on radio. That’s what Democrats want.

The Fairness Doctrine began in the late 1940s when radio was king. The rule applied only to radio and not TV. It held that with the scarcity of frequency spectrum, radio stations were obligated present opposing views. It is not the “equal time provision,” and doesn’t require equal time. Equal Time is a different rule affecting election time political attacks on radio and TV, and is no longer in effect.

While its purpose is admirable, Fairness in reality places an inordinate burden on broadcasters, chilling political discourse. You have to understand the mindset of the broadcaster. Protecting the broadcast license is the top, top priority, nothing else even comes second. They live in daily fear of the FCC yanking it. It is their livelihood. In the old days (pre-deregulation) license renewal came up every three years. When that time came, a station would prepare a summary of its public interest programming and community involvement showing they were in compliance with FCC guidelines. From thousands and thousands of pages of records showing religious broadcasting, community access, public affairs and news, they would cull the information into a report showing they had satisfied the public interest programming goals.

But the most important issue to be addressed at license renewal was, and still is, showing that every programming complaint from the public has been noted, addressed and resolved. Currently most, but not all complaints involve sexually explicit content, But that will change under Fairness. Based the recent Obama/Ayers commercial and WGN flap, it is not unreasonable for a station to expect several hundred partisan emails a day complaining about the fairness of Rush or Hannity. No station can respond to that kind of volume to the satisfaction of the FCC. AM stations that have brought us the most vibrant political discourse for the past 21 years, will revert to 50’s rock or go dark as many did in the 1980s under Fairness.

How will Fairness be reimposed? If there is a Democrat president, it most likely will be done under the rulemaking authority of the FCC, though it can be legislated. But that needs a filibuster proof Democrat Senate, a Democrat majority in the House and a Democrat president. Already Democrat FCC commissioners are trying to increase bureaucratic strictures on broadcast stations. They want to reduce the current 8 year license period to the former 3, and add vastly more detailed public interest programming reporting requirements. They just want to bring back the rule of fear the old system brought us. The advantage for having the FCC to do the dirty work of bringing back Fairness, instead of congress, is they can simply reimpose the old rule, avoiding debate on the issue of excluding the TV spectrum. Under no circumstances will Fairness be applied to TV. It will harm Democrats best friends, and bring a firestorm from the National Association of Broadcasters. Radio is only a small part of the broadcast money pie. TV is the pie. But it is this selectivity is that will ultimately kill Fairness in the courts.

It’s difficult to rationalize how the 6 mHz of an HDTV channel is somehow less important than 10 kHz of an AM station 1/600th the size. In fact the entire AM radio spectrum would fit into less than 20% of a single HDTV channel. Fairness was once upheld by the Supreme Court in 1969 (Red Lion), in an era before deregulation and before the internet and other media opened up massive new channels for political discussion. Ultimately any decision will be based on the First Amendment issue of whether the Fairness Doctrine encourages freedom of speech or chills it. The anwer is obvious. Fairness will be deemed unfair

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Long live mediocrity

This AP story ran in a several hundred papers today. Pitcher banned…he’s too good 9-year-old boy told he's too good to pitch 

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Nine-year-old Jericho Scott is a good baseball player -- too good, it turns out. The right-hander has a fastball that tops out at about 40 mph. He throws so hard that the Youth Baseball League of New Haven told his coach that the boy could not pitch any more. When Jericho took the mound anyway last week, the opposing team forfeited the game, packed its gear and left, his coach said.

This is one more example of narrow minded efforts to marginalize those who excel. We sometimes forget most of us in America are descended from those who left their home countries because of the lack of opportunity. Yet whether it is doing away with valedictorians or playing scoreless soccer, we are reverting to what we tried to escape. In ten years I hope we see Jericho pitching for the Yankees.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Responsible drinking

A group of college and university chancellors and presidents have formed an organization to reduce the drinking age from 21 to 18. The Amethyst Initiative outlines the realities of the current age requirement that was forced on the states by a congressional mandate that withholds 10% of federal highway funds for non-compliance. The group believes the 21 age requirement actually promotes alcohol abuse. Here is their statement:

A culture of dangerous, clandestine “binge-drinking”—often conducted off-campus—has developed. Alcohol education that mandates abstinence as the only legal option has not resulted in significant constructive behavioral change among our students. Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer. By choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law. How many times must we relearn the lessons of prohibition? We call upon our elected officials: To support an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21 year-old drinking age. To consider whether the 10% highway fund “incentive” encourages or inhibits that debate. To invite new ideas about the best ways to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol. We pledge ourselves and our institutions to playing a vigorous, constructive role as these critical discussions unfold.

I agree that an 18 year old should be able to have a drink. Not because they can vote and fight for our country, but because it is right. If anyone thinks their kids abstain when off at college, let me assure him/her they don't. Making it illegal just gives them a rationale to disrespect other laws, not just the drinking age law. This country tried an experiment with Prohibition in the 1920’s and early 30’s. Not only did it encourage lawlessness in so many forms, it fostered one of the wildest and most alcohol abusive generations ever. Both my wife and I had a parent who became an alcoholic during the "Roaring Twenties." Theirs was a culture of bathtub gin, speakeasys (illegal taverns) and bootleggers.

Yet we decided to serve a glass of wine to our children at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner starting at 14 or 15. We did it to show our acceptance for it in a social setting and that it wasn’t a “forbidden fruit.” All are now responsible drinkers. Did they ever over indulge when they were younger? Of course. But they knew there was a history of alcohol abuse in their families and it tempered their behavior, as it had tempered ours.

Those promoting strict anti drinking laws are the same “drys” that brought us Prohibition, the greatest social experiment disaster this country has seen. They just have different faces now. It was done with the best of intentions but gave us the worst of results.

Monday, August 25, 2008

NY Times public editor Clark Hoyt, a joke

Clark Hoyt is the New York Times’ third public editor and by far its worst.

The position of public editor was created after the Jayson Blair scandal, where a minority reporter was coddled and criticism of his questionable stories ignored. The scandal exploded in 2003 when a former coworker complained he had plagiarized her stories. She was proven correct and a subsequent investigation showed almost half of Blair’s most recent stories were fraudulent. The two top editors of the Times resigned and the committee investigating the breakdown recommended the position of public editor be established to prevent further journalistic lapses. The first was Daniel Okrent who did a decent job but never fully felt his oats until his final column which was his best, including tidbits such as these:

Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults. Maureen Dowd was still writing that Alberto R. Gonzales "called the Geneva Conventions 'quaint' " nearly two months after a correction in the news pages noted that Gonzales had specifically applied the term to Geneva provisions about commissary privileges, athletic uniforms and scientific instruments. And this: Last July, when I slapped the headline "Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?" atop my column and opened the piece with the catchy one-liner "Of course it is," I wasn't doing anyone - the paper, its serious critics, myself - any favors. I'd reduced a complex issue to a sound bite. And this: Reader Steven L. Carter of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., asks, If "Tucker Carlson is identified as a conservative" in The Times, then why is "Bill Moyers just, well, plain old Bill Moyers"? Good question.

Byron Calame, was the next and a true professional. As his two year stint went on, he became even better. He publicly called Publisher Sulzberger and XE Keller to task when they refused to discuss the timing of the Risen and Lichtblau story on warrantless eavesdropping. He eventually deemed the Times wrong for its story (buried it at the end of his article) exposing the sharing of European SWIFT banking data with the US. But his best was the evisceration of a NY Times Magazine pro-abortion piece accusing El Salvador’s courts of sentencing a woman to 30 years in prison for having had an abortion. She was in reality convicted and sentenced for infanticide of a fully born and breathing infant, which testimony and the court’s decision sustained. And a fact the Magazine editors missed.

While Calame was doing his digging on this story, rumors began to circulate inside and outside of the Times’ newsroom that he would be fired and/or the public editor’s position eliminated. You can sense the hostility he encountered by reading his description of the stonewalling and denial from senior editors. But he survived to complete his term. 

Then came Clark Hoyt. His almost weekly columns are filled with interviews with senior editors justifying all sorts of controversial stories. There are puff pieces on the Times’ fairness in the number of stories given to the different political candidates. On occasion he will plead guilty for the Times for an inconsequential faux pas, such as the Times having been duped, along with hundreds of other papers, by a photographer who claimed to have taken the famous picture of John John Kennedy saluting his father’s casket.

But when it comes to the more substantive items, such as publishing the name of Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s interrogator, despite pleas from the CIA Director for his safety, the Times is always right.

Two recent ones got my blood boiling. They were the Times’ justification for publishing photos the bodies of Marines killed in combat and rationalizing the lack of interest and coverage of the John Edward’s affair. On these two I wrote him to disagree, but my letters weren’t published. I really didn’t expect them to be. I’ll share them here.

I have to take exception to your analysis of this story and here’s why. As you know death is faced daily by combat troops in Iraq. These folks know the risks. But they do it with the hope that in death, they will be treated with respect. Marines have a saying, “Marines always come home.” By that, they mean they don’t leave their dead on the battlefield as other services do. Often under fire and at great risk, they will bring back a fallen buddy to do honor to him.

At the time of the Zoriah Miller story, we had a police officer killed in the line of duty here in Fort Myers, Florida. He was killed breaking up a fight between a young man and his girlfriend. The killer pointed a revolver in the policeman’s face and pulled the trigger. The paper described the scene as grisly and bloody. No pictures were taken, no pictures appeared in the paper. No pictures were posted on anyone’s website. Common decency prevented it. This begs the question. Does the New York Times routinely print pictures of dead New York City policemen? What would happen if you did? There is an analogy here.

 Part of the Times’ problem is the perception our forces have of your paper. That is, it is anti-war, anti-military and wants to undermine their efforts. They simply don’t trust you not to use their dead to dishonor their mission. That is why there was such a visceral reaction to Miller’s postings. At some date you may regain their trust. Until then you should use common decency.

 Crosby Boyd

In the second Hoyt claimed there was no bias in the decision not to pursue the John Edwards story.

“I do not think liberal bias had anything to do with it.” Surely you jest. If you could run the McCain “lobbyist” story and bring up the infidelity angle, you could certainly dig a bit on the Edwards story. Why not contact the National Enquirer to see what you could get. They did answer questions. When asked why no photos in the July story, they gave an ominous answer. They said it was part of a much larger story. The long and short of it is, the story proved out and you blew it. You can rationalize Edwards’ lack of standing, but others said he was on the short list for VP, or barring that, AG in an Obama administration. He was scheduled to speak at the convention and he still has a bargaining chip of 24.5 delegates.

The new bias at the Times is its failure to cover stories that don’t fit the Democrat game plan. Yes I know, these stories really are of no interest. But here’s one that’s hard to argue: On Tuesday November 29, 2005 Joe Lieberman ran an Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Our troops Must Stay.” It ran totally counter to the Democrats’ carefully crafted strategy of withdrawing from Iraq by a date certain, the Murtha Plan. The story was a blockbuster. But for one solid week, November 29 through December 5 there wasn’t a peep from the Times. Not until Democrats started talking about drumming him out of the party, did Lieberman’s name appear in the paper on December 6.

The story ran in the other NYC papers and the Washington Post. It was available to the Times from wire services, but it didn’t run. Perhaps the Times was “too squeamish” to tackle that one too. The Times should admit its bias.

Crosby Boyd

Clark Hoyt is strictly window dressing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Party unity the Clinton way

During the most recent gulf war, SecDef Rumsfeld described enemy combatants who continued to fight to the bitter end, knowing their cause was lost, as “dead enders.”

That term could describe the Clinton camp’s efforts to derail Obama’s nomination next week. I mentioned in an earlier post there was a surprise leak to ABC News on August 6 that she might have her name placed in nomination at the convention. That has now happened. It’s all for party unity of course, so her supporters can be heard. Yeah. The press is referring to it as a symbolic vote, but it’s about as symbolic as a lighting a fuse on a stick of dynamite. If the vote goes her way, bang, Obama’s out. It’s that simple.

Would the Clintons stoop to devious measures at this point in the campaign? Well, the Clintons are the Clintons and nothing’s beyond the pale. They do play for keeps. Here are a couple of items. From the Moderate Voice blog:

"August 20th, 2008 by JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief Scripps Howard News Service reports that there’s a new email campaign underway by some Hillary Clinton supporters to derail the nomination of Democratic Senator Barack Obama, who is now starting to seriously sag in various national polls: ‘A massive e-mail and Internet campaign is under way aimed at derailing the nomination of Barack Obama and making Hillary Clinton the party’s standard bearer next week at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. ‘ ‘It’s downright nasty,’ said Memphis, Tenn., superdelegate and city council member Myron Lowery, who has shared dozens of the messages he’s received with The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal newspaper.’ "

And this is reported today via America’s Right:

“A prominent Philadelphia attorney and Hillary Clinton supporter filed suit this afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic National Committee and the Federal Election Commission. The action seeks an injunction preventing the senator from continuing his candidacy and a court order enjoining the DNC from nominating him next week, all on grounds that Sen. Obama is constitutionally ineligible to run for and hold the office of President of the United States.”

If Obama is so naïve he would trust the Clintons in the interest of party unity, how will he do with Ahmadinejad or Putin? Now everyone knows the Clintons are tougher and less trustworthy than those two, so he might do OK. But it sure looks like Hillary is trying to destroy Obama either for the nomination or in the presidential election.

Some party unifier!

The Poles and Old Europe.

In an article yesterday uncharacteristic of it, the New York Times points out the dramatic change of attitude Russia’s invasion Georgia has had on the Poles. From reluctance to accept a missile shield on their territory, they have instantly reversed positions and signed an agreement to allow it. The article points out the lack of faith Poles have in “Old Europe,” and the need to tie themselves to the US. "

But since the Georgia crisis, this largest of post-Communist European Union members has moved to cement its relationship to action-oriented America and not just the tentative bureaucracies of Europe and NATO. " "The Russian invasion reminded Poles once again how quickly and dangerously Eastern Europe can divide. Poland is struggling to show that it will not fall behind the faint old lines of the cold war, which may have seemed foggily forgotten in the West since the Berlin Wall fell but are remembered all too well here. "

The article goes on to explain Poland’s memories go beyond the cold war era, but back to their invasion by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939 when they were left to defend themselves, despite a treaty with Great Britain and France. They fell in 4 weeks, and lived 50 years under the subjugation of a foreign power.

"It is not a cold war mindset that drives Poland, Mr. Sikorski said, but one that harks all the way back to World War II, when, despite alliances with Britain and France, Poland fought Nazi Germany alone, and lost. " "It was “the defining moment for us in the 20th century,” Mr. Sikorski said. 'Then we were stabbed in the back by the Soviet Union, and that determined our fate for 50 years.' " 

"As a result, Poland’s foreign policy is stamped by mistrust not only for Russia’s ambitions but also for hollow assurances from its own allies."

The last comment (bold) is a zinger directed at France and Germany. You have to remember France pulled its military out of NATO in the 1960’s, knowing that any Soviet attack would have to come through Germany and be fought there primarily by Americans and Germans. During the cold war France played footsie with the Soviets with the dream of establishing a French and Soviet hegemony from the Urals to the Atlantic. Germany, likewise, now feels the comfort of a Polish buffer. Both have gone soft.

There is nothing like recent memories to reinforce the fears of Russian domination when you are on the front lines, as Poland now is. For those who believe doing away with anti-missile technology and cutting our military to the bone is the way to make other nations love and respect us, think again. For those who believe our military prowess doesn’t make friends, think again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Exploring The Great Calusa Blueway

This was written for the Sanibel-Captiva Sail and Power Squadron Soundings a short time ago. I wanted to hold it until our squadron members had a chance to read it first. Life here is more than just hurricanes and politics. It’s also living life to its fullest with my beautiful and delightful wife Julie.

Julie and I love to canoe. We have done it together since we were first married and living in the Washington DC area. We would rent a canoe from Fletcher’s Landing about two miles upstream of the Watergate, where the National Park Service put on summer evening concerts from a floating band shell. While most folks would sit on the steps leading down from the Lincoln Memorial, the best seats were in the gap between the shell and the seawall, where you could park your canoe and listen to the music. A bottle of Blue Nun, some cheese and crackers and you had yourself a delightful (and inexpensive) evening.

Over the years we have tried kayaks, but we still prefer canoes. They are a bit faster when passage making, hold bulky items better (like backpacks or a mother-in-law) and they’re what we’re used to. We had read about The Great Calusa Blueway and wanted to experience it.

The Blueway is a series of paddling trails in Lee County waters. There are three distinct areas: 1. Estero Bay and rivers; 2. Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass and; 3. The Caloosahatchee and its tributaries. The first two have marked trails along the shore line. The Caloosahatchee is unmarked but the brochure shows the tributaries to explore and provides their latitude and longitude so you can find the entrances with a GPS. While the river itself is considered part of the Blueway, it is heavily trafficked with high speed boats. The brochure warns you to stay away from the channel to avoid damaging wakes. It’s best to launch near the area you want to explore and limit the time spent in the river unless you are with a large and highly visible group.

So we decided to get our feet wet. We have done Sanibel’s Tarpon Bay so often the birds know us. We wanted something different and we chose Estero Bay Outfitters. They are located on the east side of US 41 on the Estero River. They have a good variety of fresh kayaks and canoes. The canoes are fiberglass Indian Rivers which I prefer to the softer, heavier plastic ones. Prices are reasonable, $22.50 for 3 hours and $5.00 more for the full day. We wanted to get an early start so we arrived a bit before 8 am. Early departures are called for in the summer when winds are light, temperatures moderate and skies clear. You definitely want to time your return to avoid any afternoon thunderstorms.

We didn’t know what to expect and we were pleasantly surprised. The first three quarters of a mile was reminiscent of the St John’s River and waterways in Georgia, with Spanish moss covered low hanging trees. There were large stands of bamboo. We passed the Koreshan Village which has a boat landing if you want to stop and explore. We didn’t. We wanted to see if we could make it to the mouth of the river, about 4½ miles from the start counting all the squiggles. The next mile and a half was scenic on one side of the river and built up on the other, mostly mobile home parks with docks. Fortunately this was summer and boat traffic was light. We stopped at times to take pictures of flowers. Bird life in the upper part of the river was spotty, not unusual for this time of year. We finally reached the State Buffer Preserve where civilization stopped and the shoreline became all mangroves. This is the Florida we are used to on Sanibel. The outfitter had suggested this should be our turnaround point in order to make it back in 3 hours. We had reached it in about an hour so we continued on. The deadline wasn’t that important anyway.

As we made our way downstream the current picked up. The tide table predicted the low tide at 9:43 am at nearby Coconut Point and we figured we would arrive at the mouth around 10:15. That would give us a following current upriver. We reached an area called the Bottleneck, where the river narrows and the current flow increased substantially to around 1½ knots, even 2 in spots. It made paddling easy. Along the shoreline we spotted old Calusa Indian shell mounds, and marked them on our map for a photo shoot on our return. Bird life improved as we neared Estero Bay and my new camera got a workout.

We rested for a moment or two and started our return. The tide hadn’t turned as expected and we had to dig hard to fight the current. We reached our shell mound, an 8 footer, and began taking pictures. There were about two dozen wasps darting around the mound. While they never appeared to threaten us, they did act very, very angry. Julie protested my idea of using her as a visual reference close to the mound, so we used more distant photography. Next we encountered a more modern pest, a jet ski. This one passed us at high speed about 40 feet away. Our shouts to slow down only angered him and he returned, this time to soak us down from about 15 feet. It was intentional. Fortunately our cameras were stowed in waterproof containers and survived.

The rest of the trip was delightful. After getting above the Bottleneck, the current slowed and we made great time. About a mile from our destination we spotted a green heron. It flitted from tree to tree, always staying 50 to 100 yards ahead of us. It seemed to act as a guide, welcoming us home.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What is Putin's next move?

I am not optimistic the Georgia situation will be resolved successfully. Here's why. Already successive deadlines have passed for Russia to remove their troops, as agreed. They haven’t budged. It appears to be the big stall. And they aren’t stalling because they’re waiting to top off their tanks to return to the motherland. Already there are reports of surface to surface missile installations in South Ossetia capable of hitting Georgia’s capital Tbilisi. Their troops are digging in within artillery range of Tbilisi and they still hold Gori. Fox News reports troops near Gori are demanding western media show Russian press credentials, meaning the Russians are now free from prying eyes. But it’s more than just that.

It’s just not in Putin’s nature to give in. Putin sees himself as the person who will lead his country superpower status again, following in Stalin’s footsteps. He has resumed provocative Tu-95 Bear overflights of NATO exercises, a relic of the cold war. He wants the sovereign republics that were part of the Soviet Union back in the fold by any means. He rigged elections in Ukraine and Georgia only to see them undone in popular uprisings and legitimate elections. In Ukraine’s follow-up election, Russian agents poisoned the popular candidate Victor Yuschenko with a massive dose of dioxin, but failed to eliminate him. He won convincingly in a major defeat of Putin’s agenda.

Putin has eliminated political and media opposition. Too many writers critical of Putin have been murdered for it to be accidental, the best known, Anna Politovskaya. She had written a series of highly critical articles on Russia’s brutality in Chechnya. All TV networks are now in government hands. Newspapers have been shut down for hostile reporting and state advertising withheld. A new extremism law is being used to curb criticism of public officials.

Anyone who models himself after Stalin won’t exhibit weakness. Truces are for rearming. Most likely we will see a massive swift assault on Tbilisi to remove the vestiges of Saakashvili’s government. Count on it.

Sanibel in the crosshairs

One of the joys of living in Florida is logging on, daily, to the National Hurricane Center’s website during summer and early fall. It comes as second nature. We follow tropical weather like others listen to traffic reports. Most of the tropical storms and hurricanes meander around the Atlantic or the Caribbean. When landfall is predicted it is usually in some remote area of Mexico. But not this one.

Last Friday a disturbance that had formed in the mid-Atlantic was declared a tropical storm, named Fay. At that point the NHC publishes a predicted path. And I was in the crosshairs. Not to worry, the track always changes. Well it hasn’t. Over three days the track has moved westward about 20 miles, but now it’s back. Even the different computer models are in close agreement. Seven of the 15 model tracks, including the NHC’s, go right over my house. Land fall is predicted on Sanibel around 9am Tuesday.

The track is almost a duplicate of Charley (2004), a Cat. 4 monster. This one is predicted to be a weak 1. We’ve already pulled in the outdoor furniture and locked all the windows. We have hurricane glass so storm shutters aren’t needed. The sweaty and time consuming job (20 minutes) is installing the reinforcing bars on the garage door (rated for 135 mph) which we’ll do late tonight. Then we’ll decide whether to evacuate or not. We have accommodations available just off the island if we need it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Strobe Talbott, now a voice of reason

Strobe Talbott, was a correspondent for Time Magazine during the 1980’s. He was an apologist for the Soviet regime and is considered by some to have been a willing dupe of Soviet intelligence, or even worse. In the May 21, 1984 issue of Time he wrote this:

“The Reagan Administration has made a bad situation worse in two ways: first, by convincing the Soviet leaders that the U.S. no longer accepts military parity as the basis for relations with Moscow; second, by challenging the legitimacy of the Soviet regime, calling the U.S.S.R. an ‘evil empire’ doomed to fail.”

He missed the mark about the “evil empire” as subsequent events would prove. It failed when Boris Yeltsin, standing atop a tank in front of the Russian White House (Parliament building) put down a military coup intended to perpetuate the old order. Now in a stunning reversal, Strobe Talbott thoroughly dissects Russia’s reasoning for invading Georgia in today’s Washington Post. The Russians are trying to equate it to NATO’s intervention in Serbia and the establishment of a separate state of Kosovo.

“Russia has been justifying its rampage through Georgia as a ‘peacekeeping’ operation to end the Tbilisi government's "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing" of South Ossetia. That terminology deliberately echoes U.S. and NATO language during their 1999 bombing campaign against Serbia, which resulted in the independence of Kosovo.”

He goes on.

This analogy turns reality, and history, upside down. Only after exhausting every attempt at diplomacy did NATO go to war over Kosovo. It did so because the formerly "autonomous" province of Serbia was under the heel of Belgrade and the Milosevic regime was running amok there, killing ethnic Albanians and throwing them out of their homes. By contrast, South Ossetia -- even though it is on Georgian territory -- has long been a Russian protectorate, beyond the reach of Saakashvili's government.”

And finally.

“Yet it now appears that beyond the undisguised animosity that Putin bears toward Saakashvili, he and his government regard Georgia's pro-Western bent and its aspiration to join two Western institutions, NATO and the European Union, as, literally, a casus belli. If that is the case, the next U.S. administration -- the fourth to deal with post-Soviet Russia -- will have to reexamine the underlying basis for the whole idea of partnership with that country and its continuing integration into a rule-based international community.”

Read it all.