August 15, 2009

Personal thoughts on south suburban Dallas newspapers

First, the good.

Going to a free throw gets rid of the horrible cost of second-class postage and otherwise reduces overhead. The tabloid size sets it apart from the old Today and the Focus.

Now, the not so good. I think trying to cover Grand Prairie, Midlothian and the Best Southwest is just biting off too much. And, I think the paper has its smallest ad sizes set too small. Finally, there’s probably going to be some trust issues, especially related to the publisher.

As for publishing? Well, we had moving-related glitches last week. We’ll have an issue out this week. We may go two weeks before another.

Seriously? I give this about a 50-50 shot of doing anything beyond three months.

Update: Several points.

First, if I am being too pessimistic on the Suburban, great. Obviously, I'd love for it (us?) to fully succeed, even if I am no longer there. But, it's not just me who says it's biting off more than it can chew on territory/coverage; I've heard similar comments from other people with as much or more background in the business as I have. I could maybe see Midlothian plus the three most advertising Best Southwest cities, with getting what we can editorially and adwise out of Lancaster.

But, Grand Prairie? Stupid. First, those car ads will NOT be back at all for 18 months, and only at a diminished rate then, with the possible exception of snagging a "cash for clunkers" ad or two.

Second, GP is as big as, or bigger, than all four BSW cities. It's difficult to do a paper JUST on it.

When Today tried it, it did not try it the way I thought it was going to be tried - no first issue until we had X number of column inches of ads signed up on 13-week contracts, credit card numbers in hand.

There are a couple more lesser issues I may tackle in a future post.

(Update, Aug. 14: Everyone who has given me feedback on my being fired by the Suburban says it's ridiculous.)

Sacked by the Suburban - canned by SoDallas starter paper

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about my estimates of the likelihood of success of the Suburban, a new startup newspaper in south suburban Dallas, making an attempt to replace the recently-closed Today Newspapers.

I updated that post, and then a friend and former Today employee picked it up and linked to it on his blog, which focuses on south suburban Dallas news, especially Duncanville news.

Well, the publisher of The Suburban, Lisa Bradley, got more than a bit bent out of shape, and decided to fire me; Katy and Ann Hubener of Crescent Real Estate, providing seed money for the venture, agreed.

True, it was not the smartest, most aware thing in the world to do, but I said it. And, yes, it surprised other people whom I told that I was getting fired over that. That said, if I had offered the advice in advance, in private, to one of the Suburban financial supporters, it probably would have been dismissed, anyway. So, here goes.

Update, Aug. 13: Everyone who has given me feedback on my being fired by the Suburban says it's ridiculous. If that means negative PR, so be it.

More seriously, in newspaper job interviews I've had so far, plus talks with others who know the biz, the verdict is unanimous — even if you know how to run a newspaper, a suburban weekly is tougher than an exurban or rural community paper.


I don’t claim to be irreplaceable; the Suburban may do better without me. But, I do know that a lot of Today readers liked me, even when they didn’t always agree with my editorial columns.

If I’m in for a penny, I’m in for a pound. Let’s look at the background of why I offered my estimates of 50-50 chances of success in three months.

First, a bit of Today background.

Today’s parent, the original Suburban, went bankrupt in 1989, let’s remember. Maybe that’s part of why Duncanville’s Royce Brown sold the old Suburban back in 1985. If anybody from Duncanville who knows more on that has information, fire away.

Dick Collins had subsidized the Today group for years. I don’t know if he officially charged rent, for the right hand to bill the left, at Today’s DeSoto office, when he owned both office building and newspapers. Later, after he sold the papers, I believe the rent was below-market/subsidized in some way, and he continued to invest money in the paper.

He continued to do so even after it moved to Duncanville, after he sold Today’s DeSoto office building, at least at first, I think.

And, it still lost money, even with his investment.



Even with belt-tightening that already began back in 2004, when the old People section was canned and we let an editorial position go, by attrition.

And, beyond losing money, it still has debts in various places, including a certain amount to the federal government.

It was still losing money even after all four Best Southwest papers were consolidated into one, and the final round of editorial staff slashing happened. Part of that was recession-related, but not that much.

I’ll take a venture that, on average, over the last 12-18 months of its life, the paper was losing as much as $2,500 a month, and that’s a conservative guess indeed. I don’t know exactly what Today paid in rent for its Duncanville office, but I’m making a rough internal guess.

Lisa Bradley herself, still having at least one uncashable Today paycheck in hand, probably knows even better than I do, from talking to Today owner Kim Petty, just what the situation was like. Or maybe she didn’t inquire that much.

It’s possible that Katy Hubener’s offering free office space, the paper being a free throw (though mileage costs and driver[s] pay at least partially offset the cost of a second-class postage permit) and having a part-time editorial person, may not be enough to fully cover that difference.

But, what news will you get for that? Let alone what sports, once school starts? (And, I told Katy that I was surely the only Today longer-term editorial staffer of the past five years or more who would have done that myself.)

Next, Today’s presence in the market, or ANY newspaper’s presence in the market.

Let’s be honest. South suburban Dallas simply doesn’t support a newspaper.

Marlon Hanson’s Focus? He claims his 33,000 circulation is audited, but didn’t tell me by whom. If it hasn’t been audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, it ain’t that real. (And, I’ve looked for an ABC logo in the paper, from time to time.) And, I can do long division; at 33K circ, that’s better market penetration than the Dallas Morning News.

The “Neighbors” Friday tab of the Dallas Morning News? Half the ads in its aren’t from the Best Southwest suburbs. In essence, other editions of “Neighbors” are subsidizing the BSW one. Maybe it still makes a profit. But, with an editor AND assistant editor both making more money than I did at Today, I doubt it.

Plus, I’ve heard rumor that Belo is looking at yet more cuts. If you’ve seen the ads in a recent issue, or lack thereof, that shouldn’t surprise you.

Now, the circulation side.

In one interview I’ve had since Today closed, I told the people who headed that newspaper group, two former Dallas Times-Herald editorial staffers, what the circ numbers were at Today’s individual papers before they consolidated into one, then closed and they rolled their eyes. At the same time, I’ve seen the pages the papers in their group pushed, with the ads they had, and I roll my eyes at how few ads we had, and pages.

South Suburban Dallas businesses simply aren’t buying that many ads.

The Best Southwest is bad enough. And Grand Prairie is worse. If businesses really bought ads in even close proximity to a good small-town paper, a Best Southwest-only paper should easily have 30 pages a week, and Grand Prairie at least 36. In this economic climate. Eighteen months ago, those numbers could have been 36 and 42 pages. And, I’m being conservative, yet allowing for this being a suburban area, not a free-standing small town.

As for trust issues, there’s first the trust issues of Today closing on one day’s notice. Yes, I could have kept my mouth shut with the Suburban, and told Hubener if she still wanted to keep me on, that I could do so in the future. But, after being, in all likelihood, the biggest Today cheerleader in the last remnants of its editorial department its last few months, I said I couldn’t do that any more.

Anyway, back to The Suburban and what it carries over from Today.

Getting advertisers to pay up-front on credit card? My understanding was that, before Today closed, everybody there was supposed to be getting put on credit cards. Didn’t happen there, probably won’t at the Suburban.

But, if some of Duncanville’s city or economic development corporation issues are that “iffy,” well, find non-nutbar alternatives to run for the Duncanville City Council. If Katy Hubener wants change and is tired of state representative campaigns, she can start smaller and do that herself. It might actually turn out to be less expensive than sinking money into the Suburban.

Oh, and directly contravening my thought that they’re biting off too much, the Suburban has added “Waxahachie” to cities of coverage in its masthead.

Finally, to not be too anti-sentimental, Duncanville existed before the original Suburban did. And it will in the future, whatever happens in the way of a newspaper presence or not.

Mousavi forms new ‘popular front’ political movement

Up until recently, over the last few weeks, defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mir Mousavi has been pretty quiet.

No longer. He has formed a new political movement, “The Green Path of Hope.” What the story doesn’t mention, though, is what has me most curious – will this light a fire under Grand Ayatollah Akbar Rafsanjani to do more in opposition to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, or not?

August 15 healthcare roundup

First, Rick Pearlstein has yet a great column on this issue; he correctly notes the winger opposition movement is both spontaneous and astroturfed. It’s easy to see that Democrats from President Obama down who only focus on the astroturfing are going to miss something.

And that’s nothing new, as Pearlstein looks way back to 1963:
The various elements -- the liberal earnestly confused when rational dialogue won't hold sway; the anti-liberal rage at a world self-evidently out of joint; and, most of all, their mutual incomprehension -- sound as fresh as yesterday's news.

At the same time, Pearlstein notes that astroturfing, in the form of fake letters to the editor, started way back in Richard Nixon’s time.

Next, Bob Herbert looks at what government-funded health programs, besides Medicare, actually work. Answer? Non-profit clinics in Vermont that ought to be shoved in the face of Sen. Byron Dorgan before he touts his health insurance coops one more time.

Hutchison rightly nails toll roads as “permanent tax raise”

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, expected to officially announce her campaign for governor against incumbent Tricky Ricky Perry next week, nailed the Trans Texas Corridor dead-on Friday:
“Using toll roads as a permanent tax raise is not good public policy,” she said. “A 50-year lease on a toll road is never meant to be a free road. That is Governor Perry’s transportation strategy and I disagree with it.”

Go, go.

I don’t trust any currently announced Democratic candidate (or Kirk Watson) to beat Perry if he beats Hutchison. Tom Schieffer is probably either clueless about, or else supportive of, the Trans Texas Corridor.

August 14, 2009

Healthcare ideas again scuttle myth of ‘liberal’ Whole Foods

Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey has worked long and hard to “brand” his luxury grocery store as also being a liberal grocery store. Well, it’s been shown before not to be true.

And, some of his own proposals for his version of healthcare reform demonstrate that again.
• Tort reform;
• More “freedom” for health savings accounts;
• Looking only at Canada and the UK as alternatives, rather than Germany, France, Netherlands.

Not all of Mackey’s proposals are bad; just remember the source — a CEO busted for anonymous fluffing of his own company on blogs a couple of years back.

And, some people are nowrefusing to drink the Whole Foods coffee.
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If healthcare ain’t Obama’s Carter moment, fiscal issues are

First, the idea of Big Ben Bernanke being reappointed to head the Fed isn’t going smoothly. Why? Timmy Geithner at Treasury, and his trying to make his old boss’s job part of Treasury, is a fair part of the problem; add in Larry Summers hovering in the background and you have trouble..

Meanwhile, US income inequality is not just the worst since the Depression, it’s the worst sinced before we entered World War I. It’s no wonder teabaggers are angry, while pseudolibs continue, by silence if nothing else, to defend Pres. Kumbaya.

And, a lot of non-Goldman Sachs real banks could be in bad loan trouble to boot.

Obama platitudinizes while America burns.

Unfortunately for real reform, he, like Reagan, will get lucky to have this recession mostly gone before he runs for re-election.

National healthcare – Obama’s Carter moment?

That’s the theme of Peggy Noonan’s latest column, and, it’s arguable, at least, she’s correct.

A progressive analyst, Michael Brenner, is the latest to smell the roses, then stop drinking the Obama coffee over national healthcare.

And, the latest ad campaign for whatever free-floating healthcare ideas Obama is backing unites Big Pharma, Big Med and a Big Biz-friendly union.

Former Iran lawmakers want to investigate Khamenei

This is big news. A group of reform-minded former Iranian lawmakers want to “investigate Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei over the aftermath of the country’s June 12 presidential election, including allegations arrested dissidents have been tortured.

Showing how serious they are, their letter calling for the investigation calls Kahrizak prison worse than Abu Ghraib.

Their letter has been addressed to Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who heads the Assembly of Experts, but it’s unlikely he could ramrod such an action through there.
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Krugman, NYT weigh in on ‘death panel’ smears

Paul Krugman wonders how President Barack Obama “will deal with the death of his postpartisan dream ,” then notes he has part of the blame for his lack of pushing and explaining the bill, first, and his lack of passion, second.

In other words, as I have blogged before, we needed William Jennings Bryan and got Kumbaya instead.

The paper, meanwhile, backstops Krugman with details of where the “death panel” claims arose.
-END-

‘Centrist’ Dem Senators back off Waxman-Markey

The fact that four Democratic Senators want to gut the cap-and-trade heart of Waxman-Markey, the House’s climate control bill, is one of the reasons, per the poll in the right-hand rail, I think it’s already too weak. It doesn’t allow for the Senate’s angle, or conference committee cuts.
-END-

A gander on the future of south suburban Dallas media

A week or so ago, I took an in-depth look at the likelihood of survival of the Suburban, the attempt to restart a pseudo-edgy version of Today. (Tabloid-size format doesn’t make you “edgy”; ax-grinding just to grind axes makes you sound like a former Ellis County Press reporter.)

Now, I’m looking at the likely future success, or lack thereof, of other print media in south suburban Dallas.

That includes Focus Daily News, the Neighbors section of the Dallas Morning News, the News itself, and other venues.

First, this “against the wall” observation.

In newspaper job interviews I’ve had so far, plus talks with others who know the biz, the verdict is unanimous — even if you know how to run a newspaper, a suburban weekly is tougher than an exurban or rural community paper. And, folks at the Suburban don’t know how to run a newspaper, while part of the “competition” isn’t really a newspaper, part of it isn’t fully suburban, part of it, you have to question how it’s being run, and part of it isn’t a newspaper at all.

Details on all below the jump.


Marlon Hanson’s Focus? He claims his 33,000 circulation is audited, but didn’t tell me by whom. If it hasn’t been audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, it ain’t that real. (And, I’ve looked for an ABC logo in the paper, from time to time.) And, I can do long division; at 33K circ, that’s better market penetration than the Dallas Morning News.

That said, in one recent interview at another newspaper company, started by the former top editor at the Dallas Times-Herald, with its executive editor being a former DTH higher-level editor, when I mentioned Mr. Hanson, formerly a national ad account manager at the DTH, they basically rolled their eyes. And once of them said the Focus was essentially a wrapper for inserts.

Yes, Hanson’s still making money. Mainly because Brett Shipp at WFAA has yet to do the story on it. (Or a lottery winner with a personal interest has yet to hire a lawyer.)

A decade ago, Hanson did have at least a bit of local news more than

The “Neighbors” Friday tab of the Dallas Morning News? Half the ads in its Best Southwest version aren’t even from the Best Southwest suburbs. In essence, other editions of “Neighbors” are subsidizing the BSW one. Maybe it still makes a profit. But, with an editor AND assistant editor both making more money than I did at Today, I doubt it. I really doubt it.

Plus, I’ve heard rumor that Belo is looking at yet more cuts. If you’ve seen the ads in a recent issue, or lack thereof, that shouldn’t surprise you.

So, how long will Belo continue to subsidize it from other regional versions?

And, even if that many people in the Best Southwest read “Neighbors” itself, do they actually read its staff’s blogs?

I doubt it. (No offense to my friend Loyd Brumfield.) Blogging by newspaper staff, like op-ed pages, as a prime source of advertising revenue, online circulation focus, or whatever, is a no-go. The New York Times found that out several years back when Times Select folded like a cheap tent.

And, beyond that, unless Loyd has more pressure than so far to increase news content in the tab, it’s largely reader-submitted feature stories.

Ellis County Press? It may do OK covering the white-flight folks in Ellis County.

But, by definition, those folks don’t live in southern Dallas County. The folks that do, whether white, black, or Hispanic, don’t want to read what ECP offers.

ECP is thin on coverage as is, and thin on real news at times instead of ax-grinding. (See top.)

So, it’s an exurban, not a suburban, paper, with no angle on suburbia.

The main pages of the Dallas Morning News? See “cuts” above, and note thinness of current staff. Note also the decade-old “Collin County plan.”

In short, the occasional world-class feature (the August home-rebuild story should take care of the next three months), and the more than occasional bad news story of hard news, and that’s it.

Now magazine? A monthly features magazine. No news.

Now, the circulation side.

In one interview I’ve had since Today closed, I told the people who headed that newspaper group, those two former Dallas Times-Herald editorial staffers, what the circ numbers were at Today’s individual papers before they consolidated into one, then closed and they rolled their eyes, but in a different way than over Marlon’s claims with the Focus.

Beyond that, as shown by “Neighbors,” south Suburban Dallas businesses simply aren’t buying that many ads. Yes, they bought more in Today, but that was with three ad salespeople, not one.

The best odds? Minority-oriented newspapers, perhaps.

Southwest-Frontier deal is dead

Frontier pilots refused to swap a 40 percent wage hike in exchange for surrendering all their seniority, so Southwest’s bankruptcy offer for Frontier is dead. Republic, which previously got Midwest out of bankruptcy, is the winner.

Per the story of what it did to Midwest’s pilots, the Frontier pilots may not have made the right decision, but that’s a toughie in the dog-eat-dog world of pilot seniority, if you have any knowledge of that.

And, despite some analysts’ pooh-pooh-ing, Republic is a definite winner.

Paul Begala a sellout on national healthcare

Personally, I don’t think his Social Security analogy holds water. The bottom line of Social Security from the get-go was that it was a PUBLIC retirement program.

The analogy with national healthcare is the “public option,” pure and simple.

Begala blew it.

The correct analogy would be, “What level of coverage will a public option offer to start with?”

August 13, 2009

Ted Rall asks why we’re fighting in A-stan

I agree with the overall gist of his article, that we’re risking measuring “success” by using a more esoteric version of Vietnam War-type metrics. What next? Warlord contracts instead of body counts?

And, as for propping up President Hamid Karzai, what if top campaign opponent Abdullah Abdullah beats him? Do we stay even longer?

GQ Johnny Edward to fess up on Hunter baby

GQ Johnny is going to fess up that he is indeed the father of Noelle Hunter, after the National Enquirer earlier today said DNA confirmation is in on the paternity of Rielle Hunter’s baby. The degree and firmness with which l’affaire Edwards was covered up made me suspect him as daddy-san to baby Noelle all along.

That’s not all. Rielle Hunter supposedly testified to a grand jury looking at Johnny Boy’s 2008 campaign financing. Know a good lawyer, John Boy? Do not count yourself. Talk about making Slick Willie Clinton look moral.

Hurricanes highest since last global warming

The BBC reports that hurricane frequency is at its highest in 1,000 years, the time of the Medieval Climate Anomaly, also known as the Medieval Warm Period.

Of course, there was no human influence on that warming.

Cheney pissed about second-term Bush

And, he’s apparently going to do a lot of dissing in his memoir. Interestingly, that’s not slated for print until 2011. Is Che Ney trying to influence the 2012 presidential election?

Obama HAS lost control of healthcare debate – and why

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs may dodge the issue, whether artfully or not (I say not; he’s becoming Ari Fleischer-like), but I think many supporters of major healthcare reform, let alone opponents, agree that President Barack Obama has lost control of the debate on the issue (if he ever was on top of it in the first place).

Why? Well, as I have blogged before, some people have “Onward Christian Soldiers,” not “Kumbaya,” in their hymnals. And, whether it’s fear of the “angry black man” stereotype, or, this just isn’t Obama, he has failed to be William Jennings Bryan and understand, and grasp, the anger on other issues, the populist anger, that has led to this point.

Another reason? As exemplified on his approach to economic issues, he’s a micromanager. Elsewhere, he’s been described as “professorial” in his public speaking style on big issues. Neither works with this.

Beyond that, the same WSJ story notes that Obama has pulled his punches on more than one issue already. “All hat, no cattle?”

And, Paul Krugman wonders how Obama “will deal with the death of his postpartisan dream ,” then notes he has part of the blame for his lack of pushing and explaining the bill, first, and his lack of passion, second.
-END-

Original cap-and-trade creators doubt its CO2 use

Thomas Crocker and others who came up with emissions cap-and-trade systems to control traditional air pollution doubt its applicability to global warming. One difference is the global nature of, er, global warming. Another, he said, is that warming’s costs haven’t been sufficiently quantified yet to properly price caps.

The better answer, Crocker and others say, is carbon taxes.

At the same time, the National Association of Manufacturers and other big biz groups claim the Waxman-Markey climate control bill, a cap-and-trade bill, could cost 2 million jobs. Nonsense. Nobody in Europe talks about job losses even close to that, let alone job losses in the abstract as a major fallout of the bill.
-END-

Germany and France officially out of recession

In another sign that, contra economic sneerers on the equivalent of Don Rumsfeld, the “old Europe” of the Eurozone has plenty of vigor, Germany and France are both officially out of recession with second-quarter economic growth.

That said, overall Eurozone growth dropped 0.1 percent. However, that’s still smaller than the U.S. second-quarter drop. In the rest of the EU, the UK seemed to the biggest laggard, with its financial sector still struggling more.

Who’s your baby daddy, Rielle? John Edwards!

No surprise at all to me, as the National Enquirer says DNA confirmation is in on the paternity of Rielle Hunter’s baby. The degree and firmness with which l’affaire Edwards was covered up made me suspect him as daddy-san to baby Noelle all along.

That’s not all. Rielle Hunter supposedly testified to a grand jury looking at Johnny Boy’s 2008 campaign financing. Know a good lawyer, John Boy? Do not count yourself.

Update:GQ Johnny is going to fess up. Talk about making Slick Willie Clinton look moral.

Food another tough hurdle for manned mission to Mars

Apollo and space station/shuttle food preparation, preservation and packaging just won’t cut it on the tougher interplanetary rigors of a trip to Mars.

NASA is both looking at new preservation techniques and sending an unmanned advance lander with a food cache.

Mercenaries oversee mercenaries in A-stan

Yes, our government, claiming it’s too busy, has hired a British company of “contractors,” Aegis, to oversee the likes of Blackwater. Talk about foxes guarding henhouses.

Not so fast with Chevy Volt economy claims

The EPA is saying spare me the hype, in part because it hasn't finalized its method of testing the "fuel economy equivalent of all or primarily electric cars.

August 12, 2009

Equality California holds Prop. 8 fire until 2012

I’m not sure that decision. And, per the story, other gay rights groups agree.

I think EC will have to jump in line, if enough of these other groups push for a 2010 repeal.

The Wall Street Journal’s BIG lies on healthcare

The lies in an opinion piece start with the claim 9 of 10 people under 65 are insured already.

The claim that states with “guaranteed issue” of insurance are struggling? Well, deductibility of corporate-offered insurance is a federal, not state tax issue, so already, the WSJ is comparing apples and oranges. As for costs, well, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts have high overall costs of living, so what do you expect?

Trade deficit increases in recession - another 'green shoot'?

Why?

Primary due to rising oil and gas prices.

Why? Wall Street hails this as another sign of recovery, but, maybe it has another reason.

Meet Andrew J. Hall, arguably the king of oil commodities future speculators. It was him and his ilk, in addition to legitimate supply and demand concerns just 12 short months ago, who were probably adding an extra $25/bbl to the price of oil even as we were already officially in a recession and moving deeper into it.

It’s people like him who have caused the recent spike in gas prices, all because Wall Street is less “recessed” than you and I.

Oh, and he wants $100 million from Citigroup for his work, even though Citi got bilions in TARP money from Uncle Sam, aka “you and I.”

Profile: The psychologist authors of U.S. torture

The New York Times has an excellent article on career military psychologists Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the pair who reverse-engineered Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape, or SERE, eventually leading to waterboarding and other torture.

At the peak of their work, the pair was getting $2K/day, each from the CIA. And, doing things like chatting up and down Martin Seligman, the psychologist who discovered and researched the concept of “learned helplessness,” without telling him WHY they wanted to pick his brain.
-END-

Privatizing human services work backfires on states

Indiana is cited as the primary example for how privatizing delivery of services such as food stamps and Medicaid can go wrong, but other states also get mention.

Toll roads? Traffic doesn’t change much, and certainly isn’t likely to ramp up, in a recession.

Food stamps? Different story. And, I bet that in the Indiana case, IBM once again assumed that Alan Greenspan and his magic bubbles had permanently banished recessions.

Apparently, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa didn’t read the WSJ story; he wants to open LA schools to privatization bids.

Chevy Volt will be a ‘landmark’ just to get to market

Please, Buck Private Motors, spare me the hype about how the Volt will be a “landmark” vehicle.

Nissan’s Leaf, the first planned mass-production all-electric car that can go more than 100 miles without a charge, is a “landmark” vehicle.

An overpriced electric-with-gas-engine-boost that can only do another 100 miles and will cost $15K more, while taking 3x as long to get from idea to reality, is NOT “landmark.”

Hell, GM CEO Fritz Henderson admits that himself:
"The key to high-mileage performance is for a Volt driver to plug into the electric grid at least once each day," Henderson said.

So, in other words, the Volt is really an all-electric in drag, and therefore is overpriced compared to the Leaf, which can go more than 100 miles without a charge and without a backup gas engine.

Update: The EPA is also saying spare me the hype.

A new thought on blacks and Prop. 8

Yes, we can also blame the Mormons, or the Christian Right, but in regards to last November’s vote on Proposition 8 in California, Michael Lind reminds us that, nationally, only 31 percent of black Democrats are OK with gay marriage, combined with 61 percent of white Democrats. Quoting the AP, via Lind:
California's black and Latino voters, who turned out in droves for Barack Obama, also provided key support in favor of the state's same-sex marriage ban. Seven in 10 black voters backed a successful ballot measure to overturn the California Supreme Court's May decision allowing same-sex marriage, according to exit polls for the Associated Press. More than half of Latino voters supported Proposition 8, while whites were split.

It’s part of a Lind story about warning against demonizing Southerners, and a good warnig.
Blacks and Latinos, it appears, are allowed to hold conventionally conservative social views about gay rights, abortion and (in the case of blacks) immigration without being mocked and denounced by elite white liberals in the pages of the Washington Post and Mother Jones, as long as they vote for the Democratic Party on the basis of other issues.

All worth remembering.
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Southwest Airlines could have a winner in Frontier

Besides getting Frontier’s gates and routes at Denver if Southwest buys the carrier out of bankruptcy, it gets more.

That “more” includes the possibility of changing its business model.

Could Southwest move at least somewhat more in a hub-and-spoke direction? Could it keep Frontier’s regional line, Lynx? Unthinkable as those ideas might have been just a couple of years ago, maybe so.

If Southwest stayed with the one-plane model for its main line, and put a “one-plane” model at work for Lynx, too, just a different one plane, and just tweaked its current modified hub system, it could stay in the clover.

August 11, 2009

Tricky Ricky Perry has to borrow $1.5 Billion

That’s the latest pricetag for his cheap-ass anti-stimulus stinginess on unemployment compensation funds.

Kay Bailey Cheerleader will have fun with this issue, especially if GOP suburban areas such as Collin County continue to struggle.

Levi Johnson confirms Palin marriage trouble rumors

Former Bristol Palin fiancé Levi Johnson said former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former First Dude Todd have had a long history of problems, in fact. That said, he added that he does not believe it’s an issue of extramarital affairs.

And, although Levi says it no affair was involved, supposedly, the National Enquirer’s reporting of late last summer about a former Sarah Palin affair with Todd’s best friend, led to the marriage going on the skids. (The stories were never officially denied by the Palin Veep campaign after the Enquirer story hit the stand, and the mag has never been sued over the story.)

The story was broken by Gryphen, the interesting, more than sometimes right, sometimes speculative Alaskan blogger, who since has been threatened with libel papers over his Palin divorce story.

That said, the Alaska Report notes this is the fourth time in a month Thomas Van Flein, Sarah Palin's lawyer, has made such a threat. Never delivered on the previous ones.

So, will Van Flein now threaten Levi?

To speak from the language of the police and criminal trial world:
1. Divorce “goes to motive” on why Palin quit;
2. Per the Immoral Minority post, marital stress would explain Sarah’s weight loss;
3. Todd Palin, beyond any affairs, might just really be First Dude for Alaska, and tired of the 50-state limelight, political chase, etc.

Healthcare blowback after Obama town hall

First, Sam Stein notes that President Barack Obama just doesn’t get Sarah Palin and other wingers.

Here’s the problem, Barry. Not everybody’s hymnal has “Kumbaya” in it. Second, to mash up Nazi Germany and cognitive science, to tell the Big Lie convincingly, you have to tell it to yourself enough, and convincingly enough, that you first believe it for yourself.

That said, ABC’s Kate Snow notes that, on the end-of-life consultations that Palin et al say would be “government-forced euthanasia, hospitals do them right now. Hospice does in a sense. And, if that hospital or hospice is paying that patient’s bill with Medicare, well, then we right now have the government involved with end-of-life issues and no euthanasia.

Finally, Michael Lind says that progressives/liberals need to stop bashing stereotypical Southerners as a class, whether over national heathcare, or over other issues.

Taking direct aim at Kevin Drum, Texas native Lind says his state produced LBJ (set Vietnam aside, please), Barbara Jordan, Anne Richards and Maury Maverick, among others, while Drum’s California was the home of Nixon, Reagan the John Birch Society, Prop. 13 and as late as last year, Prop. 8:
According to Drum: "There are, needless to say, plenty of individual Southern whites who are wholly admirable. But taken as a whole, Southern white culture is [redacted]. Jim Webb can pretty it up all he wants, but it's a [redacted]." …

Drum's creepy bigotry becomes clear when other groups are substituted: "There are, needless to say, plenty of individual blacks who are wholly admirable. But taken as a whole, black culture is [redacted]. Barack Obama can pretty it up all he wants, but it's a [redacted]." Or maybe this: "There are, needless to say, plenty of individual Jews who are wholly admirable. But taken as a whole, Jewish culture is [redacted]. The late Irving Howe can pretty it up all he wants, but it's a [redacted]."

From there, he goes off on Prop. 8, and how stereotypes aren’t always put into place:
Blacks and Latinos, it appears, are allowed to hold conventionally conservative social views about gay rights, abortion and (in the case of blacks) immigration without being mocked and denounced by elite white liberals in the pages of the Washington Post and Mother Jones, as long as they vote for the Democratic Party on the basis of other issues.

Beyond that, there’s always the “why” behind non-stereotypical anger, which is the bottom line of what Obama doesn’t get. After all, besides “Kumbaya,” hymnbooks also contain “Onward Christian Soldiers.

Previewing Obama’s healthcare town hall

First, the always-insightful Dan Froomkin says he won’t be surprised at all if we eventually see Obama the pushover on national healthcare. House-Senate conference committee serving as the ultimate smoke-filled room to put new life into the current dysfunctional system, thereby pushing real reform even further away.

Froomkin’s old employer, the Washington Post, more circumspectly talks about Obama being driven to the defensive on national healthcare.

But, the GOP shouldn’t exult in any of this. New polling shows the Congressional GOP getting zero traction from Congressional Democrats’ slide.

Meanwhile, George Soros is reportedly ready to pony up $5 million to make national healthcare happen. Of course, we saw what that did for John Kerry in 2004.

Finally, Stephen Hawking, still alive in Great Britain and with its single-payer healthcare system after more than three decades with ALS, refutes ’wingers’ claims of “government-mandated euthanasia.”

That said, back to Froomkin. I suspect he’s right. And, the question is, will this be a “failure” from Obama’s failing to take the lead on this issue, from Congress, early on, like LBJ on Medicare? Or will this be “reality,” because Obama wasn’t behind this, except for verbiage, all along?

Dan Froomkin pulls no punches at Huff Post

And, it’s good to see. He’s got some in-depth analysis on the likely unveiling of Obama the pushover on national healthcare.

Taliban winning much of northern Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal has plenty of details, including noting that U.S. commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s predecessor, Gen. David McKiernan, had a request outstanding for 10,000 more troops, and that McChrystal will probably eventually ask again for them himself.

That would probably explain a renewed round of drumbeats for more Western troops in Afghanistan, this one actually writing for the British outpost of the U.S. bipartisan foreign policy establishment.

Meanwhile, the British have agreed with the U.S. on the alleged need to target Afghan drug lords, while the Pentagon now has a hit list of them.

Fake Dem TX gov candidate clueless on ideas

George Bush best buddy Tom Schieffer, the only declared “Democratic” gubernatorial candidate so far, pretty much got his head handed to him on a plate in Austin. And deservedly so.

I’d vote more enthusiastically for state Sen. Kirk Watson.

And, if former Travis County DA Ronnie Earle enters the race, he’d get my vote in a heartbeat. I’d almost like to see Tricky Ricky Perry win the GOP nod over Kay Bailey Cheerleader just to see that race.

August 10, 2009

US establishment beats A-stan troop drums

The latest drum-beater for more Western troops in Afghanistan, actually writing for the British outpost of the U.S. bipartisan foreign policy establishment, is un-American to shout down differences of opinion.

Meanwhile, the British have agreed with the U.S. on the alleged need to target Afghan drug lords, while the Pentagon now has a hit list of them.

Aug. 10 healthcare roundup

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer say it’s un-American to shout down differences of opinion.

Well, it might contravene some American ideals, but in reality, it’s been done for about the entire length of existence of our republic. And, Declaration of Independence aside, the reality of America has rarely been about ideals.

Meanwhile, Robert Reich says that Obama’s deal with Big Pharma — cost controls on its part for patent extensions and other goodies — is “a precarious road -- and wherever it leads, it's not toward democracy.”

No, it’s a road that leads toward 2010 and 2012 campaign cash for the “liberal” president who opted out of public campaign financing.

Meanwhile, the country slouches toward Obama’s town hall in New Hampshire.
-END-

‘Three amigos’ summit has US-Mexico sidebar, too

Nothing major in results is expected from the North American summit, which will focus on drug and gang issues, with climate change and swine flu also on the table.

A sidebar US-Mexico talk covered Mexican trucks coming into the US and US drug war aid, but with little progress.

Both our neighbors are worried about recession-driven protectionism. Obama was “Wink, wink” on this with Canada in the campaign; the presidential Obama is a free-trader, without generally addressing enviro and labor issues.

In other words, he’s a neolib. Alert Frank Rich. Expect him to get a modest increase in Mexican shorter-haul trucks now and more in the 2010 lame-duck Congress.
-END-

Arctic ice cap may break 2007 record low

It’s too early to tell for sure, yet but this year’s ice cap retreat may be worse than 2007.

Just another thing to tell the global warming deniers.
-END-

August 09, 2009

Health ins foes: Old, white, greedy and/or clueless

All you have to do is look at pictures from Congressional town hall events, like Steve Cohen’s in Memphis, to see points one and two.

Points three and/or four? If I hear “get the government out of my healthcare” from a senior citizen one more time, I’m ready to personally hire someone to hack into government computers and cut off their Medicare coverage.

What do they think the fucking GOP majority Congress passed and George W. Bush signed into law in 2004? A Medicare prescription benefit.
-END-

Gov. Sanford may not have ‘flown right’ more than once

Turns out an AP investigation on his use of his state airplane shows that he did a lot personal use trips on it.

To make matters worse, there’s shoddy record-keeping and unclear South Carolina laws. If you want proof of the continued value of newspaper media today, read the detailed story.
-END-

Let’s stop criminalizing poverty

Must-read stuff from Barbara Ehrenreich. Another area where, so far, President Change has done little. True, this is basically at the state and community level, but, he could find ways to hold u Byrne grants and other cops grants for more thuggish states.
-END-

Yawn – Holder about to name CIA special prosecutor

Beyond what the LA Times notes, that, among other things, convictions will be hard to obtain, we know he’s only going after small fry anyway, so no big deal.
-END-

Frank Rich finally smells the Obama myth coffee

Rich wonders if maybe, just maybe, Obama isn’t that much a reformer after all.

Dude, I knew that 16 months ago.

But, without sparing Obama personally, Rich looks at the system:
In this maze of powerful moneyed interests, it’s not clear who any American in either party should or could root for.

Answer is ultimately nobody from within the two-party duopoly.

-END-

Does Dallas not care about the arts?

Merging the city’s cultural arts and library systems, under city of Dallas consideration, sounds like a short-sited reaction to what should be a short-term budget concern. END.

COTG – Godlessness and Mississippi, Mormons, morals and more!

Welcome to the Aug. 9, 2009 Common Era (no AD here!) issue of Carnival of the Godless.

First, a housekeeping note to Brent, and possible future hosts. I tried the “InstaCarnival”; it shows all the HTML coding, for bolding, hyperlinking, paragraph returns, etc, when you copy, paste and upload, so, it needs some tweaks, methinks! It is a nice idea, though.

Second, who am I?

I am one of those rare critters: An atheist with a graduate divinity degree. And, not from a fly-by-night place, either. I can still, more than 15 years later, crack open the Gospel of Mark in the original Greek and do more than just muddle So, I know how to refute theological and philosophical claims of many of the fundamentalists in detail.

That said, right now, I’m also an unemployed newspaper editor. While I don’t feel any psychological pangs myself, for a variety of reasons, I can understand the heightened allure of religious belief – especially organized groups rather than “spiritual but not religious” individuals. Group support, cohesion, etc. are all powerful.
Anyway, with that, let us jump right in!

Billy the Atheist really does exist. And, as he reminds us, so do other atheists, like people involved in this blog carnival. Just because we’re nice, moral, etc., doesn’t mean either we, or our anti-theistic stance (PLEASE, not “belief”) isn’t real. (I was going to say “antimetaphysical stance,” but Buddhist atheists might have an issue with that one. That’s you, Sam Harris.)

Probably, as Cubik’s Rube reminds us, the type of people who believe atheism isn’t “real” find our lack of religious belief disturbing. Reminds me of H.L. Mencken’s comments about Puritanism being disturbed by others’ happiness.

Perhaps part of what is disturbing is that the religious worry about uncertainty in their belief, whereas atheism requires no such certainty, Atheist Revolution tells us. This brief post reminds me of issues such as “hard” vs. “soft” atheism, or other, similar terminology.

Dr. Jim then has another reminder for us – creation museum nuttery isn’t limited to the United States. Even with a real dinosaur museum right down the road!

(Which reminds me: a recent ruling from U.S. District Judge Casey Rogers ordered that nine of 10 properties linked to the Dinosaur Adventure Land launched by Kent Hovind, who also founded Creation Science Evangelism, can be seized. The irony!)

So, does “materialistic atheism” mean we can’t be happy? Gerry Canavan reminds us it’s a step of freedom outside of something we knew wasn’t working for us anymore anyway.

I’ll try to remember that on the job hunt.

Of course, being unemployed means worrying about health insurance. Between that and being/having been a newspaper editor, I’m following the national healthcare battles in detail. So, I note with interest that Mississippi Atheists talks about Christian arguments against universal healthcare. Other than this allegedly undermining the Protestant work ethic (though Ted Rall’s most recent column reminds us that the French have higher per-person job productivity than the U.S.), I guess “the poor you will always have with you” trumps “love your neighbor as yourself,” eh?

Dr. Jim blogs again, keeping us in Mississippi, a good Southern ground zero for abstinence-only sex education. Why do we need Christian-based abstinence-only sex ed? “Keeping Satan out of our underpants!”

Joshua Williams at 13.7 blogs about one of my favorites – that evolution is “only a theory.” My personal answer to that, Joshua, is, “So is gravity. And, if you want to ‘test’ that, there’s a skyscraper right over there, Mr. Fundie. Let me know more about your research later.”

Next, we get a little “history of atheism,” as Scholar at Large takes a close reading of Diderot and his snarky, Twitter-length comment, metaphorically for safety, of course, about Mary’s Annunciation, especially Catholic iconography.

Going beyond Diderot, Learn-Gasm has 25 great thinkers for every college student to know. How many are on your list? What different ones would you have?

Broadsnark says atheists need to make sure they don’t explicitly frame their atheism in terms of anti-Christian reactions, speaking from his own Jewish background. A good reminder to be broad-minded.

Along the lines of Broadsnark’s reminder that atheism can and should be more than anti-Christianism, Prior Adams gives us a snarky morality tale swatting down one of New Agers’ most cherished ideas – that nothing is coincidence.

Meanwhile, A Nadder brings his own Jewish background to looking at the biblical book of Job at warp speed. He’s dead-on; a pissed-off Job, not knowing he’s a pawn in a cosmic craps game, and no concept of “heaven,” wants some answers!

Next, Living with Mormons tells us what we’re missing at First Sunday testimonial at the ward. Sounds like Southern Baptists, with the addition of the “underpants” they ripped off from the Masons. More seriously, having grown up in the Four Corners area of the U.S., this is all quite familiar, along with men just past teenage years with white shirts, black pants, and black ties. No wonder the Eff-Bee-Eye recruits them so heavily!

Meanwhile, I earlier mentioned the Twitter-length Diderot. Well, in case you have religious hankerings, or a desire for a laugh, in what appears to be an attempt at “infiltration,” Online Christian Colleges gives us 100 “uplifting” Twitter feeds.

The Chaplain then gives us his personal response to people so troubled by our unbelief that they want to know what will cause us to believe. “I ask for clarity, simplicity and inclusiveness. Is that too much to ask of a supreme being?” No, it’s not.

Greta Christina, reminding us that Satan is NOT in our underpants, takes on Christian fundamentalists’ top bogeyman – human sexuality. She has some stimulating thoughts on sexuality and transcendence from a materialist point of view.

Finally, Procrustes gives us his hugely tongue-in-cheek thoughts about one particular alleged nexus of religion and politics, namely, the Artistic Expression Protection Act. You never know …

And, that’s it for this edition of Carnival of the Godless. If you want to host, hit the BlogCarnival link for more information.

Meanwhile, if you have a minute or two, stroll around. Vote in one of my polls on the right hand rail. If you want more in-depth philosophical thought, or comments on arts and literature, or poetry, visit my Philosophy of the Socratic Gadfly blog. Or, if you're a nature lover, visit my online photo albums. If you need something to read, I've got plenty of Amazon reviews.

David Frum to wingers – ‘winning’ healthcare fight may not be…

May not be a win, that is. Frum points out what mainstream columnists note: if Obama’s plan is defeated, we’re stuck with what we have now, and its fallout in years ahead.