‘the real reason newspapers are failing’

Keep pissing off your customers, guys. I’m sure eventually it’ll result in profit: 

Ken Bilderback writes: “Another reason newspapers are failing. We subscribe to The Oregonian. The good news is that we will get the Thanksgiving and Christmas papers we’re paying for. The bad news is that our subscription will be shortened because of it.”

Forget that it’s catastrophically shitty business practice. I don’t understand how this isn’t illegal. “You paid for this thing, with a certain understanding. And because we’re making more money on our ‘special’ papers, we need to gouge you for a few more bucks, in order to … make more money on what we’re already making more money on! So the contract you entered into with us is no longer valid, and we decided that on our own. SUCKS TO BE YOU BYE.”

A.

Sunday Morning Video: The Jayhawks On Austin City Limits

Ignore the date on the video. This appearance by the Rainy Day Music band occurred in 2004:

Here’s some lagniappe, an audio file of Gary and company on the radio in 2003 with an introduction by Stephen King:

 

Weekend Question Thread

Favorite fall activity?

One of the things I’m really enjoying about life with Kick is that it helps me to do things other than lay around on Saturday and watch Netflix. I’m solitary and lazy by default, so having a pint-sized excuse to hit the farmer’s market (on days when she’ll only nap in her stroller) or visit a pumpkin patch (at almost nine months she TOTALLY cares about the petting zoo, I know she does) is keeping me from hibernating early.

A.

Escape Plan

I spent my day in the southern part of the state talking to some high school journalists, so this is a bit late. On the way there, I had to take some of the more rural highways to get from point to point, winding me through the various hills and valleys around the farms and small towns along the way.

I used to love these drives, as the farms were idyllic and the occasional “FOR SALE” signs on junky trucks and old muscle cars led to flights of fancy in my mind. I often loved the way in which the weaving roads and the sound of the engine kept me thinking about how lucky I was to live in this area.

This time, every turn was another bout with crippling depression. Instead of the cars and trucks on the sides of the road, all I saw was “WE STAND WITH SCOTT WALKER” signs.

They were everywhere, each one larger than the previous one.

In spite of the recent polling data that showed an almost dead heat between Walker and Mary Burke, the scenes on the side of the road were unrelentingly bleak. In watching the debate tonight, I don’t see this getting much better over the next three weeks.

(SIDE NOTE: You have a virtual sausage fest here on the panel and they’re all dick smacking each other to try to come up with the most horrible sports analogies as part of their really bad questions. Swear to God, the Wisconsin Broadcasting Association needs to post a “Your IQ must be this high to ride the debate” sign at the door of this place…)

Burke might be a great person, a smart person and a savvy business person, but she really sucks at energizing people or giving me any hope that she’ll win. Walker is slicker than buttered snot and every time I hear him speak, my blood pressure goes up by five points and I just want to scream, “You lying brainless cocksucker!”

And that’s just after he says, “Good evening.”

Given his slashing of education budgets, the slaughter of public unions and the general sense that he’s beholden to the rich, I have never felt more fearful of an election than I am right now. To recast a John Oliver-ism, anyone with a brain should understand that if you had to choose between Scott Walker and the minions of Hell, you choose the minions of Hell. I don’t understand how people can’t see this. It’s one of those things that seems so patently obvious to me that I can’t believe people wouldn’t see it too.

It makes me fearful of what state I have come home to.

About seven years ago, we decided to come back to Wisconsin. We left ten years earlier but we always considered this to be our home. Both of our sets of parents were here, as were our grandparents. Our moms both taught in the schools of the state, our fathers both worked in blue-collar jobs.

As we lived away, our grandparents died off one at a time. Our parents were getting older and sicker. We realized we needed to make a decision, so we packed our stuff and we came home.

What we found was not the “purple” state we left. What we found was a red-and-blue, oil-and-water separation that was more hostile and more hateful than ever before.

We saw pay freezes. We were furloughed. We were battered by public opinion.

I still can’t get several conversations out of my head that just left me dining on ashes.

When my wife was hired at the U, a friend (who wasn’t an idiot) told her she must be happy now that both of us were at the U since that meant we weren’t paying taxes.

Stunned, my wife asked her what the hell she was talking about.

“You guys don’t pay taxes. You’re the takers. It’s the rest of us who pay taxes.”

There was the one where people were raging at my mother about her pension.

“You don’t deserve that! Why should you have that pension when I don’t get one?” was a common refrain.

Well, you didn’t seem to mind it when they didn’t take the raises they could have had and put a bigger strain on the economy and instead took it as deferred compensation.

There are so many things I love about this state: Saturdays doing estate sales, Friday-night fish-fry options a-plenty, snow neighbors… And yet nostalgia can’t make up for pay freezes and those “hihowaya” waitstaff at local diners can’t make up for the unrelenting bile that people hold in their hearts.

It’s this kind of thing that has us pondering how long we can stay and what else we could do. It’s like we’re plotting the great escape, talking to friends at universities far and wide while holding out hope that somehow, some way this will get better.

If not for the family we have and love, we’d be gone by now, abandoning this frozen hamlet for other pastures and the only argument we’d be having is how far south is too far south. We still have parents here. We have our kid’s godparents and we are godparents as well. Because of these people we love, we cling to the idea that family matters so much to us that we can live with almost anything to maintain that ever more fragile bond.

A long time ago, a palm reader told me that my family line and my career line were joined up to a point and then they would separate. I would eventually have to make a choice as to which mattered more.

When we managed to come home, I thought maybe I’d managed to yank the lines together and things would be OK.

Maybe Thomas Wolfe was right. Maybe you can’t go home again.

Or maybe you just can’t stay there.

AHS Freak Show Thread: You Wouldn’t Know A Real Lady From A Goat’s Ass

Double headers used to be common in baseball, they’re largely extinct in the 21st Century so I thought I’d give you a double header American Horror Story: Freak Show style. Sorry for that joke but I could not help myself. Does anyone really think I’m sorry? You’ll learn after the break.

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Friday Catblogging: Pendulum Cat

I have a confession. We like to mess with our cats sometimes. Della Street makes an excellent cat pendulum as you can see below. The odd thing is how she goes limp, she’s the squirmiest kitty we’ve ever had. I guess she knows that she looks awesome. We’ll have to shoot some video so y’all can see her swing to and fro:

Pendulum Cat

The post title has given me a Creedence earworm. Here’s  a tune from (you guessed it) Pendulum:

The Giants Win The Pennant

You know I’m over the moon if I allow exclamation points to appear in one of my posts. Travis Ishikawa is no Bobby Thomson, but we’ll take it. Here’s the immortal 1951 call from Russ Hodges:

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Debate Season: Colonel Mayonnaise & Charlie Crist’s Fan

Advocate photo

Photo by Matthew Hinton of the Advocate.

Back in my time as a New Orleans neighborhood leader, I helped to organize 3 candidate forums. It was a lot of work but quite rewarding. My former neighbor Linda Walker was a past President of the LWV NOLA chapter so she moderated, once with the help of then Picayune columnist Stephanie Grace. Dr. A was the fascist timekeeper at each event, which is one reason she approves of rigid formats. I’m less of a fan of them myself but what can I say? I’m a wild and crazy guy.

The most interesting forum we were involved in was one for our City Council District in the first post-Katrina/Federal Flood city wide election. It was an interesting group, two of whom have made news since 2006. The combative, mouthy Stacy Head is currently City Council President and the dim Counciltool she ousted, Renee Gill-Pratfall, recently went to prison for her role in a series of elaborate scams perpetrated by the late, unlamented Jefferson machine.

As a result of my past experience as a forum organizer, I’m very interested in the stagecraft of such events.  It came in handy with the second debate I’ll be discussing but we begin with the Gret Stet Senate debate, which I live tweeted if you’re bored enough to  scroll back on my  feed or you can check the hashtag #LaSenateDebate.  I am not, however, a hastag activist. I do like hashtag browns with breakfast, had to do something for the pun community…

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“We Looked At The Receipt”

From Album 5

Despite some howling from the nuttier regions of wingnuttia, it’s not exactly news that US soldiers came across old ordnance in Iraq that still had traces, or more, of toxic chemicals…some of which were even designed/manufactured right here in the US (or under US license). Weapons so old the late and much missed Bill Hicks (video link) referred to them a full decade before Junior and Dick launched Operation Mesopotamian Clusterfuck.

It IS news that US soldiers were in some cases exposed and injured when faced with the unenviable task of disposing any old shells they came upon, whether buried and forgotten about or recycled into IEDs by Sunni insurgents…but all that “proves” is that Team Bush was even more inept in creating the mess in Iraq that’s continuing to grow. It also pretty much proves how little they actually care about, oh, the soldiers…and the American public.

That said, I am a little surprised they didn’t try to spin a lie at the time, given they’d lie about almost anything, no matter how small…

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Swamp Hoyden

I’m not only a connoisseur of trashy, sleazy pulp fiction but I’m immediately drawn to anything with swamp in the title. I must admit to not knowing what a hoyden is. Here’s the definition according to Merriam-Webster online:  “a girl or woman of saucy, boisterous, or carefree behavior.” Its origin “perhaps from obsolete Dutch heiden country lout, from Middle Dutch, heathen; akin to Old English ̄then heathen.”

I just wanted to be open with y’all and establish once and for all that I’m not hoyden anything, not even from Eric Heiden:

beaconB125

Wednesday Night Music: One Time, One Night

I’m seeing Los Lobos this weekend, so I thought I’d share the official video for this great piece of musical Americana:

Today In Responsible Gun Ownership: Institutional Edition

Anyone surprised that open carry mania trumps a serious death threat? I actually was. I should have known better:

 A feminist speaker has canceled a speech at Utah State University after learning the school would allow concealed firearms despite an anonymous threat against her.

University staff members had received a threat earlier Tuesday from an unknown person who vowed to carry out a mass shooting if the event was held. University spokesman Tim Vitale says the FBI told school officials the threat is consistent with ones Sarkeesian receives when she gives speeches elsewhere.

According to the Standard Examiner, University staffers received an anonymous email, purportedly from student at the University, threatening a “Montreal Massacre style attack” and complaining that “feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge, for my sake and the sake of all the others they’ve wronged.”

The university consulted with federal and state law enforcement and had determined it was safe to go ahead with the presentation.

But Sarkeesian pulled out after learning from university officials that concealed weapons would be permitted, as long as attendees have a valid concealed firearm permit in accordance with Utah law.

Even if this was a specious death threat, the mere fact that Utah State would neither bar guns from the event nor search attendees for them is nuts. Why anyone should be allowed to pack a rod to a University event is beyond me. Dolts with carry permits shoot people all the time. I would hope that other universities in open carry states wouldn’t allow this, but it wouldn’t shock me if they do.

Because freedom, because second amendment.

Odd & Sods: Hump Day Roundup Edition

the-who odds--sods

This post is not about hunchbacks, weed killing, or humping. Sorry to disappoint you. I haven’t written one of these omnibus posts in ages and just felt like doing so. I am an arbitrary and capricious motherfucker sometimes. I may even make it a habit on Wednesdays, butdon’t want it to become a vice, which would make this whole exercise eerily like the title of a Doobie Brothers album, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. I obviously spend way too much time researching old album covers…

Now that I’ve thoroughly confused you, on with the show this is it:

Shorter Bill-O: CDC honcho should resign because he won’t come on my stupid awesome teevee show. Doesn’t Dr. Frieden know that we live in a Bill-O centric universe and that everything revolves around him? Bow down to Bill-O and kiss his mystic butthole.

Downstairs Willard: Anyone else remember the character of Upstairs John on NYPD Blue? He’s got bupkis to do with this segment. It’s called a teaser in the trade. Feel free to call me a prick. Now where was I? Oh, yeah, this:

In an evolution from his stiff, buttoned-up demeanor that was often lampooned during his previous White House runs, Romney dished in the interview on his favorite television show, his grandchildren and even a leg massage.

On “Downton Abbey”: “I think the show was most enjoyable in the first season. Then when Matthew (Crawley) went off to war, it was a bit of a departure for a few seasons,” Romney said, straight-faced. “I actually like the downstairs part more than the upstairs part, even though I think Mary (Crawley) is an absolutely delightful character and I love watching her.”

I think Willard Mittbot Romney likes the downstairs part better for voyeuristic reasons. He enjoys seeing how  his inferiors (aka the 47%) lived in Woody Old England. Now that I think of it, he probably identifies with the stiff and pompous Mr. Bates except for the whole accused murderer thing. Willard would have outsourced that to Bangladesh.

It’s reassuring that the Mittbot still feels the need to prove that he’s a human being, gosh darn it. I wonder if he likes Upstairs Mary because she’s an arrogant and haughty hottie, which is probably how he sees Ann. It’s probably a good thing that Willard is a generation removed from seeking out Mary as a sister wife like dear old grandad might have. This is what comes from my binge watching Big Love this summer…

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Album Cover Art Wednesday: Carney

I’ve had carneys on my mind since the season premiere of AHS: Freak Show. That’s why my thoughts turned to Leon Russell’s 1972 LP, Carney.

Russell’s time as a rock star was brief and this album was his biggest hit by far. Carney got all the way to #2 on the Billboard charts and the single Tightrope hit #11. Not bad for a studio musician turned cult artist. Russell’s rock stardom didn’t last long but his career has been a long and interesting one.

Carney Front

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Chickenshit or Lazy or Evil, Take Your Pick

Maybe all of the above: 

One of the clearest demonstrations of the contradiction came during the Republican National Convention in 2012, when the party gave one night of speeches over to the theme, “We did build that,” a deliberate misinterpretation of something the president had said. Speaker after speaker spoke of how they pulled themselves up and built their success without interference from “government.” By the end of the night, the bootstraps has been pulled up so hard and so long that they must’ve extended from Tampa halfway through Alabama. But there was a curious thing about these speeches. A great many of them began with, “When my Dad got out of the Army…” There was the guy who built his business who never mentioned the small-business loans he’d obtained. There was Chris Christie, railing against the dead hand of big government while nearly sobbing over how important the GI Bill had been to his Dad. There was Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma who, against all history and logic, explained how her state had been built only through the sweat of Oklahomans. It was a night of organized bullshit so epic that it stands alone in my memory. It should have been all anybody talked about for a month. It should have defined the Republican party for a generation. Hell, if it weren’t for the New Deal, Ronald Reagan’s father would have been the town drunk. Government wasn’t The Problem then. Instead, it passed without conspicuous notice.

Howard Dean (remember him) in 200FUCKING3: 

What I want to know is why in the world the Democratic party leadership is supporting the president’s unilateral attack on Iraq.

What I want to know is why are Democratic party leaders supporting tax cuts.  The question is not how big the tax cut should be, the question should be can we afford a tax cut at all with the largest deficit in the history of this country.

What I want to know is why we’re fighting in Congress about the Patient’s Bill of Rights when the Democratic party ought to be standing up for health care for every single American man, woman, and child in this country.

What I want to know is why our folks are voting for the president’s No Child Left Behind bill that leaves every child behind, every teacher behind, every school board behind, and every property tax payer behind.

Christ, that speech. That was our chance, wasn’t it? Our chance to turn this fucking country around. He could give that speech tomorrow and but that there’s a Democrat in the White House, nothing’s goddamn changed.

Why? Take your goddamn pick, Howard. I think some of them are scared and some of them are greedy and some of them are listening to every professional fuckwit on the Sunday shows talk about how mean they all are these days, what with wanting to CURE DISEASES and TEACH PEOPLE TO READ, and some of them just can’t be arsed because it’s hard, Mom, and we just want to sleep in.

Some of them are up the ass of BP or the telecom industry, some of them are in hock to the Russian mob, some of them know there are photographs out there of that thing with the goat, some of them need to keep paying off that hooker, and some of them are that hooker.

Some of them are really stupid, too, and let’s not ever discount that.

A.

State of the Media: Everything Has Never Been Okay, and Will Continue to Be Okay

First, Whet: 

1995 happened to be the first time I did a newspaper internship. One of the first things I learned was that the paper had a 20% profit margin, which was good but not even great for the industry. If that sounds insane, it sort of is; as Meyer pointed out, it’s a luxury-item profit margin. Or a monopoly-product margin, but that monopoly was already slipping away.

In turnover, newspapers are more like supermarkets than yacht dealers. Their product has a one-day shelf life. Consumers and advertisers alike have to pay for a new version every day if they want to stay current. Absent a monopoly, newspaper margins would be at the low end. But because they own the bottleneck, the opposite is true. Before technology began to create alternate toll routes, a monopoly newspaper in a medium-size market could command a margin of 20 to 40 percent.

High profit margins combined with increasing revenues in a bubble economy led tomassive debt acquisitions despite the ongoing decline of newspapers’ circulation:

Prior to the recession, credit availability was virtually unlimited. Lenders were aggressive in lending to consumers and businesses. Newspaper publishing, as well as other traditional media sectors, were widely sought after by lenders because of their ability to generate robust cash flow margins. It was not unusual for lenders on traditional senior loans to lend up to 5 times EBITDA (earnings before interest taxes depreciation and amortization), the primary standard of measuring cash flow. Many banks and finance companies had dedicated media practices that actively competed for newspaper industry business.

But even before that round of acquisitions, management boosted profit margins at the expense of the product. And some of those revenue gains were produced by raising rates even as circulation and the actual amount of advertising in newspapers declined.

In other words, you dipshits, you did it to yourselves, and now you want to blame bloggers and Jezebel and iPhones for it all.

Nice job. Really, well done.

Whet’s experience mirrored my own, in that I watched people who now want to claim helplessness in the face of advancing technology and “shifting digital paradigms” undermine their own bankrolls from the beginning.

Those who warned them they were spraying lighter fluid on the bonfire were either ignored or vilified, and those tasked with forming the future of media looked at the industry’s leadership and panicked right along with them.

Which is how we got to where we’re at.

Now, Dan: 

A little intuition can go a long way, too. When my oldest went crazy for Skyrim I figured he might enjoy Dungeons and Dragons. Since the only way to really learn D&D is to have someone who knows it show you the ropes, I had him invite some friends over, pulled out the old books and had them roll up some characters. Once they got the hang of it, they loved it – and began bringing friends along. (Full disclosure: I did all of this primarily because I am an arrested adolescent and still geek out over D&D as much now as I did when I was fourteen.) We have sessions every week that last several hours. Sure they check their phones, but for the most part they are interacting with each other and having a good time engaging in some improvisational storytelling.

We act like these things are inevitabilities, like we have no control over what happens to us anymore. Like we just have to surrender to the lowest common denominator and not live our lives the way we intend to live them. LIke it all just happens to us, and somebody else is to blame.

A.

Malaka Of The Week: Andrew Stiles

I’d never heard of Andrew Stiles or the internet rag (is that a thing?) that he writes for, something called the Washington Free Beacon, until today. Sounds impressively patriotic and shit doesn’t it?The only reason I paid this creep any mind is that he mocked a friend of mine, Lamar White. Lamar happens to have cerebral palsy. Stiles mocked his disability and that is why he’s malaka of the week.

The offending, and offensive post, was occasioned by Lamar’s appearance with Wendy Davis in the wake of attacks on an ad she ran about her opponent, Greg Abbot. Abbot is in a wheelchair himself but is utterly indifferent to fate of others similarity situated. In short, he’s another hypocritical wingnut. You cannot shake a tree without dozens of them falling out. That’s right, folks, we’re in another IOKIFYAR situation. They can play hardball without reproach and Democrats cannot. Bullies can never take a punch without squealing like  a stuck pig. We all know that.

In any event, here’s Malaka Stiles’ shtick:

On Monday, Davis’s campaign organized a press conference in an effort to prove that some of her best friends are confined to wheelchairs. “Greg Abbott got his justice. Why doesn’t he believe that a rape survivor or a person with a disability or a victim paralyzed forever…should get justice too?” Davis said. “What makes Greg Abbott think it’s okay to deny them, his fellow Texans, the justice that he rightly went to court to receive?”

But things got a little awkward at one point when one of the disabled speakers was dragged across the stage in a chair by (presumably) a member of the Davis campaign.

Here’s the story, morning glory. Lamar *asked* the Davis people to move the chair because it was easier for him than standing up and risk falling down. They weren’t pushing him around or demeaning him, they were helping. I guess that’s an alien concept to Stiles and his icky ilk. Here’s how Lamar explained it to the Houston Chronicle’s Lauren McGaughy:

The Wendy Davis supporter whom campaign staffers moved while he remained seated in his chair at a Monday press conference said he asked them to do so to avoid falling down. He criticized staffers and supporters of Davis’ Republican opponent Greg Abbott for calling him and the other disabled supporters gathered there “props.”

“I’m clumsy, and I fall sometimes. I didn’t want to fall on camera, so I personally asked them to slide me over in the chair,” said Lamar White, Jr., who has cerebral palsy. “I asked them to move me. Because I was worried that if I stood up, I’d fall down on camera.”

White, a law student in his final year at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School, had just finished detailing why he supports Democratic nominee for governor Sen. Wendy Davis when a campaign staffer slid the chair out of the way of the microphone so they next attendee could speak.

Davis set up the press conference, which featured more than a dozen disabled supporters, after her latest campaign ad that centered on Abbott’s own disability proved to be incredibly divisive, netting mostly negative reviews even among liberal media outlets.

The ad discusses Abbott and his support for tort reform, which came years after he received what’s believed to be at least a $10 million settlement when a downed tree branch partially paralyzed him. The ads starts, “A tree fell on Greg Abbott…”

Abbott supporters and conservative news organizations jumped on the incident, saying the staffer “dragged” White across the stage. The Washington Free Beacon, a right-leaning news outlet, called the move ”awkward,” linking to a video entitled, “Poor advance work at Wendy Davis presser.” Townhall.com called the move “absolutely shameless.”

The only thing that was shameless about this episode is the way the right wing spin machine jumped on it and distorted everything. Totally shameless and utterly shameful.

I rarely take wingnut shenanigans personally, but  Lamar is a friend who I respect and admire for his fortitude and class in dealing with his disability. It’s easy to *forget* that he’s disabled because he copes with it so well. Lamar is considerably younger than I am but he’s one of my heroes. Here’s what I said on Facebook when I shared the Stiles piece:

There’s nothing worse than when inaccurate, malicious internet snark is aimed at your friends. Don’t mess with my pal Lamar, dickhead.

Wendy Davis called Lamar a badass tonight and she is absolutely right.He’s a total badass and Stiles is a shithead, asswipe, and insensitive lout. And that is why Andrew Stiles is malaka of the week.

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Boardwalk Empire Thread: Van Weirdo, R.I.P.

BE Devil You Know

I didn’t get the memo about the final season of Boardwalk Empire being only 8 episodes. I learned it *after* the dramatic events of last night and now I understand why they put the pedal to the medal.

I tried to resist using this post title but I could not. Van Weirdo has been living on doomed turncoat copper/gangster borrowed time since season-2 but I won’t go into the *other* big event of Devil You Know until after the break.

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