The New York Times on the Precipice

This is probably the most talked-about article in journalism in recent days/weeks. I really hope publisher Sulzberger is successful.

-Paul Knue

With a doomsday clock ticking for newspapers as we know them, no one has more at stake than fourth-generation New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., who is scrambling to keep his family’s prized asset alive. Some see him as a lightweight cheerleader, others as the last, best defender of quality journalism. Talking to company insiders, the author examines the nexus of dynasty and character that has brought the 57-year-old Sulzberger to the precipice....

[From The New York Times on the Precipice | vanityfair.com]

Afloat again

Oh, that Richard Scott

The newest opponent to President Obama's still undefined health care proposal is Richard L. Scott, who is financing his own campaign against any move toward a publicly financed health care access program. A relentless bottom-line businessman, Mr. Scott is even starring in his own advertisements, according to this article in the NY Times....

The fun part of the story is that Mr. Scott has quite a history when it comes to providing health care:

Once lauded for building Columbia/HCA into the largest health care company in the world, Mr. Scott was ousted by his own board of directors in 1997 amid the nation’s biggest health care fraud scandal. The company’s guilty plea and payment of $1.7 billion to settle charges including the overbilling of state and federal health programs was taken as a repudiation of Mr. Scott’s relentless bottom-line approach....

[From cab drollery: Truly Brazen]

As our contribution to the whole stimulus thing...

...we're doing the most stimulating thing we can think of, which is re-building our Work Avoidance list. The new list will be easier to maintain and also will not redirect the link to add an ad, as Blogrolling has taken to doing. We'll also be adding a few new links and checking all the old ones to make sure they're still good. It'll take some time, but the new list is growing just below the old.

Coney Island Opens for Another ‘Last Summer’ - NYTimes.com

Coney Island was looking pretty good for being dead. A new gear had been put on the Wonder Wheel. The sun licked at the windows of the Freak Bar. There was the smell of fresh-laid paint.

[From Coney Island Journal - Coney Island Opens for Another ‘Last Summer’ - NYTimes.com]

Check out the slide show.

Can't imagine

What happened to the global economy? We seemed to be chugging along, enjoying moderate business cycles and unprecedented global growth. All of a sudden, all hell broke loose.

[From Op-Ed Columnist - Greed and Stupidity - NYTimes.com]

"There are many theories about what happened," writes David Brooks, wide-eyed. Which is exactly the problem, it seems to me. We shouldn't be having "theories" (hypotheses, actually), we should freaking know.

So let's find out.

For extra credit: While the NSA was keeping tabs on the rest of us, was it listening to A.I.G.?

I don't know about you but I just couldn't wait

The meeting of first lady fashion forces Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Michelle Obama has been one of the most highly anticipated get-togethers of the Obamas' European trip this week.

[From Fashion Face-Off! Michelle Obama And Carla Bruni-Sarkozy Finally Meet In France (VIDEO, PHOTOS, POLL)]

Open season

The New York Times Co. has threatened to shut the Boston Globe unless the newspaper's unions swiftly agree to $20 million in concessions, union leaders said.

Executives from the Times Co. and Globe made the demands Thursday morning in an approximately 90- minute meeting with leaders of the newspaper's 13 unions, union officials said. The possible concessions include pay cuts, the end of pension contributions by the company and the elimination of lifetime job guarantees now enjoyed by some veteran employees, said Daniel Totten, president of the Boston Newspaper Guild, the Globe's biggest union, which represents more than 700 editorial, advertising and business office employees.

[From Times co. threatens to shut down Globe - Daily Business Update - The Boston Globe]

Iowa might give up ethanol, become Muslim holy place

In the wake of a decision by the Iowa Supreme Court striking down a ban on same-sex marriages, that state's Republican Congressman Steve King expressed alarm at the prospect that the state might become a "gay marriage Mecca."

[From The Raw Story | GOP Congressman: Iowa could become 'gay marriage Mecca']


Can you spot the magic words?

How did a company best known for its communications gear manage to get a $322 million, no-bid contract to supply the Iraqi military with Russian helicopters? Not even the Pentagon can come up with a convincing explanation.

Yesterday, I spent an hour on the phone with two Defense Department officials who tried to explain to me why ARINC, a Maryland subsidiary of the Carlyle Group, managed to become the United States' largest broker for Russian military aircraft. They were polite and patient, but the only reason they gave me was that ARINC had some sort of one-of-a-kind, "special relationship" with Russia's copter-supplier.

[From How to Get a No-Bid Contract for Russian Choppers | Danger Room from Wired.com]

Right. Carlyle Group.

And oh, there's more at the link.

Does getting a straight answer count?

Journalists based in the United States got a shock Thursday when they dialed a toll-free number to join a conference call with senior officials accompanying US President Barack Obama in London.

The number turned out to be a sex chat line inviting callers to use their credit card numbers.

"Do you have any hidden desires?" a sultry voiced woman asked.

[From The Raw Story | White House gives reporters phone sex number for conference call]

Oh no! There's a burger bubble too?

You keep doing what you're doing, and you just keep assuming that growth is going to go on forever. And then at some point it just drops out from under you," said Alan Pisarski, a transportation expert and author of "Commuting in America." He compared the years of overproduction [of automobiles] to putting a Burger King on every street corner. "The world just can't use that many hamburgers," he said.

[From Too Many Cars, and They're Not on the Road - washingtonpost.com]

And it gets worse.

"There was a car bubble," Steven Rattner, who President Obama recruited to head a Treasury Department group charged with finding solutions to the mountain of problems facing the American auto industry, said in an interview last month. "We had this artificially high sales rate."

Bubbles everywhere! It's more fun than a Saturday night bath! How did it happen? Well, Jeff Schuster of J.D. Power and Associates - you know, those guys who know all about the auto industry - explains cars became too affordable. Imagine! (And which one of you forgot to tell me?) And then, says John Townsend of AAA, "People were taking all kinds of risks buying cars beyond their means."

So, not only were those bad, bad house buyers buying too many cheap houses, the bad, bad car buyers were buying too many cheap cars.

I'm having a little trouble following this.

Jerry stuffs eleven syllables into three words...

     ...and follows up with an interesting article, which includes my new favorite quote, "Those whom the gods want to destroy they first teach     math."

Our Epistemological Depression, by Jerry Z. Muller.  

Big enough for its own baseball team

The Labor Department on Friday is slated to release a report expected to show that a net total of 654,000 jobs were lost last month. That's more than the population of Baltimore.

If economists are right, it would mark a record four straight months that job losses topped 600,000.

[From Layoffs rise despite hope recession is easing]

(The U.S. Census puts Baltimore's population at 637,455 as of 2007.)


Put on a happy face

Researchers at New Mexico University did a study a while back that found that models mugging it for the most elite lines of fashions are the ones least likely to smile. (If Dave's Deep Discount store used models, they'd be grinning away.)

The upshot was, as Timothy Ketelaar, one of the professors involved, explained: "While we typically think of a smile as displaying our emotional state [happiness], it also appears that smiles convey information about the signaler's status. Specifically, lower status individuals appear to smile more than higher status individuals."

[From Why do fashion models never smile? :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Fashion/Beauty]

Who knew?

These meetings are fun!

At the G-20: Obama, Berlusconi, and Medvedev behind; Hu's in front.

Before it's too late

...for Senator Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas, and Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, the most pressing issue is clear: America’s wealthiest families need help. Now.

[From Editorial - The Forgotten Rich - NYTimes.com]


Stand by me

Watch this.

It'll make you smile. Even better, it will make you want to hug someone you love.

-Paul Knue

My pick for best April Fool's gag

The 188-year-old British newspaper The Guardian said it would become a "Twitter-only publication," limiting its reports to 140 characters or less.

One example from 1927 read: "OMG first successful transatlantic air flight wow, pretty cool!"

[From Internet hoaxes launched for April Fool's gags by AP: Yahoo! Tech ]

(Assuming, of course, it's a gag.)

Gee, no wonder I'm so confused

The world has had G-overload for decades. There's the G-2, with China and the U.S.; the G-5, composed of the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany and Japan; the G-7, which is the G-5 plus Canada and Italy; the G-77, a gaggle of developing countries; and others...

[From A Slate of G-20 Rivals Is Waiting in the Wings - WSJ.com]

...also a G-8, which is the G-7 plus Russia (or the G-5 plus Russia, Canada, and Italy) and, of course, the G-20.

In Papa's garden

Didn't see any six toed cats, though...

Photo: Phil Compton

Pork is bad unless it's good

An Arab-American owner of a Chicago-area Dunkin' Donuts store has to give up his franchise after he lost his long-running legal battle with the restaurant chain over his religious objections to selling pork products....

The dietary restrictions of Elkhatib's Muslim faith forbid him from eating or handling pork. When he decided to go into the restaurant business, his faith was one of the reasons why he invested in Dunkin' Donuts in 1979. The chain did not introduce breakfast sandwiches until 1984.

For nearly 20 years, Dunkin' Donuts accommodated his religious beliefs, even providing him signs for his store that said, "No meat products available," Elkhatib asserted in court documents. But in 2002, the company reversed course and told him it would not renew his franchise agreement if he did not sell its full line of products.

[From Dunkin' Donuts operator gives up franchise in pork battle -- chicagotribune.com]

And speaking of work avoidance...

Welcome to Recovery.gov

[From Recovery.gov]

This is the web site that's supposed to assure "transparency" (sorry) in the stimulus (sorry again) program, but as far as I can see it's just a collection of press releases and a few obscure charts. And now that you mention charts (or I do), what do they mean when they say "Jobs created/saved in the next 2 years"? Oh wait, they explain it here. It's a SWAG (Swinging Wild-Assed Guess).

What I want to know is, instead of pumping out press releases why don't they just give GM a, say $20 billion order for railroad and subway cars, city busses, and emergency vehicles and get to work? Would that be stimulating, ya think?

Byran Re Fusing to S Peek on Sunday in Minn.

No wait, that's speek. Speek? Byran?

I have no idea what Byran that is or why he's refusing to speek [sic], or even if that's Sunday in Minnesota - the caption is from "unverified data," explains the Library of Congress, in which the photograph resides - but whoever it is is clearly holding his hand in the air.

The 25 or 26 most annoying phrases of all time

You hear them everyday. And perhaps you utter a few yourself. But they're annoying and need to be stopped. This is a campaign. Climb on board or be left to the sharks.

[From The 25 or 26 Most Annoying Phrases of All Time - Beth Mann - Open Salon ]

Somehow, transparency didn't make this list. Go figure (which didn't make it, either).

-Paul Knue

Avoiding work on the work avoidance list

The service that maintains our currently 830,586th (wow!) most world-famous blog's world famous work avoidance list has changed somehow and although the links - most of them, at least - are still good, until I figure out what the changes are and what to do about it I can't add new ones. Meanwhile, here's one that "belongs" there...

The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks

Rising water floats all boats

Falling water, not so much.

The bad economy is creating a flotilla of forsaken boats. While there is no national census of abandoned boats, officials in coastal states are worried the problem will only grow worse as unemployment and financial stress continue to rise.

[From Too Costly to Keep, Boats Become Castaways - NYTimes.com]

"Dietary disaster," critics say

$20 burger to be sold as a "very unhealthy menu item" by West Michigan Whitecaps, a baseball team...

...features five beef patties, five slices of cheese, nearly a cup of chili and liberal doses of salsa and corn chips — all on an 8-inch bun.

[From Warning sought for burger the size of your head]

But where's the pickle?

Boeing to help battle iceback hordes

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Border Patrol is erecting 16 more video surveillance towers in Michigan and New York to help secure parts of the U.S.-Canadian border, awarding the contract to a company criticized for faulty technology with its so-called "virtual fence" along the U.S.-Mexico boundary.

[From News from The Associated Press]

Big Apple gets good news

Newsmax reports, "Angered by a New York state plan to tax residents earning over $500,000 per year, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh vowed Monday to sell all of his property and shut down his operations there and move them to Texas, a state with no income tax."

[From The Raw Story » Nearly 8 years after 9/11, Rush tells NY to ‘drop dead’]


When your world changes...and you don't

I once worked with Dave Hunke, the driving force behind Detroit's bold remake of the way newspapers operate. And I really liked him. He was intelligent, energetic, engaging -- just the kind of guy you would pick for your team. But if I were an editor in Detroit when this idea surfaced, I would have fought it with every bit of energy and passion I could muster

Maybe this is the dying gasp of a dinosaur. Or maybe Dave's onto something and this will be the salvation of the News and Free Press. No matter what, it's just as well that I'm spending my days being a grandpa and building houses for Habitat for Humanity and no longer making newspapers.

On Monday, all eyes in the journalism world shift to Detroit, where the Free Press and The News will cut home delivery to just Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. Free Press publisher Dave Hunke, who also heads the JOA with The News, says he'll measure success three ways:

--Replacing steep losses with positive cash flow

--Converting customer disruption to customer satisfaction

--Discovering a digital platform that that attracts the paid loyalty of a mass market

"If we do all of that stuff," Hunke said in a telephone interview Wednesday, "then I am going to be a very happy person."

[From Poynter Online - NewsPay]
-Paul Knue

Default by any other name

The depth of the recession and the use of taxpayer dollars to bail out companies have made it politically acceptable for overseers to tinker with employment agreements....

“We run roughshod over some contracts and not over others,” said David A. Skeel, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, about economic downturns. “Right now, employment contracts seem to be the type of contract that is viewed as eminently rewritable.”

[From Employment Contracts Are Now Viewed as Rewritable - NYTimes.com]

Failing to honor financial contracts, it seems, is called default, but failing to honor employment contracts is just, you know, tough beans.

Wait! Where's the lake?

Wait! Where's the lake?, originally uploaded by tedcompton.

It was there yesterday, but yesterday it was raining. By evening it had stopped raining and this morning, the lake was...gone. Go figure. We had snow up to our earlobes this winter and no lake.

The next two or three days are supposed to be rainy again, so we'll see if it comes back.

Bush's face

"'I said [Abu Zubaida] was important," Bush said to Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?"

[From The Torture Apologists Have No Place Left To Hide | Crooks and Liars]

Why reporters need competitors...

It was just another Oak Park Village Board meeting last night. The elected officials were sitting around a U-shaped table discussing policy... Village Clerk Sandra Sokol was taking notes... and Wednesday Journal reporter Marty Stempniak was sitting in the back row, falling asleep.

Now, mind you, I only took out my little video camera because I thought it was funny....

[From Sleep goes viral - The News Peg]

-Noted by Paul Knue


Libel in just 140 characters

In the category of "of course she is," Courtney Love has successfully powered her personal brand into a new technological age by becoming the first person ever to find herself on the business end of a Twitter-related libel suit. You can't make this stuff up, people.

Apparently, the widow Cobain has been Twittering away about her former fashion designer, Dawn Simorangkir, who claims that the former Hole frontwoman has publicly accused her -- succinctly, in messages of under 140 characters each! -- of being a "nasty, lying, hosebag thief," dealing cocaine, losing custody of her child, and being guilty of assault and burglary....

[From Courtney Love, trailblazer - Broadsheet - Salon.com]

-Noted by Paul Knue

Monitor a weekly now

The Christian Science Monitor has published its final daily print edition, dated March 27.

The key words in that sentence are "daily print." As of today, we are shedding print on a daily basis. But the Monitor itself – the century-old journalistic enterprise chronicling the world's challenges and progress – is becoming more daily than ever. And with the launch of our new weekly print edition, the Monitor is becoming more vital than ever.

No longer inked on wood pulp, no longer trucked from printing plants to your mailbox, no longer published only five days a week, the daily Monitor is now a dynamic online newspaper on all days.

[From Editor's message about changes at the Monitor | csmonitor.com]


Hangin' around...

(street performer on Mallory Square, Key West)

Photo:  Phil Compton