- Newspaper Overlords
- Who's Driving?
- Fair Update
- Catch of the Day
- Middle East Quagmires
- Pathetic Suspension
- The Nelsons
- Fair Wine Competition
- Obama's Mission Impossible
- Perpetual Warfare
DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA now owns the Ukiah Daily Journal, the Advocate-Beacon of Fort Bragg and Mendocino, and the Willits News. A fellow called Bob Mason, apparently a public relations guy for DFM, sent out this minor classic of bafflegab to the doomed employees of the three Mendo papers “on behalf of John Paton,” DFM's lead guy:
“Folks, This morning we are announcing that our company, Digital First Media, is working with the investment bank UBS to review the strategic alternatives for our business.
“DFM is a company with a successful strategy that drives results. And that means we now have options - options that we should now review to determine what is best for our future.
“After a rocky five years, the newspaper industry is firmly back on its feet again.
“Many of the largest companies in the media business have spun off their publishing assets and they have been well received by the public markets with healthy balance sheets and plans to drive their digital future and the capacity to grow.
“Other than the usual die-hard skeptics, it is now a given that newspapers, as multi-platform news organizations, will thrive in the future as the best and biggest providers of local news and advertising in their markets.
“But scale is the key to that future. Scale to build the products our customers want. The products we will need in the future for news or sales will look nothing like they do now. Any newspaper company’s future will rely upon its ability to build those products fast and as cost-effectively as possible.
“So, we are now reviewing all of those options – those strategic alternatives – that best position our company for the future.
“I am not sure of the outcome of that review or how long it will take.
“But I do know this: As employees, the best thing we can do while this review is underway is to keep doing what we have been doing best these past years – producing unsurpassed local journalism; serving our customers’ needs and continuing to boldly experiment with our digital future. The official press release is attached. I will do my best to keep you informed as this review progresses. Until next time, John.”
(“STRATEGIC ALTERNATIVES” — what does that mean exactly? Well, it could mean we decide to sell the company. Or sell parts of it. Or expand it. Or stay the course. But it's more like, “Folks,” you are about to be unemployed. The structures housing your papers are for sale, and so are you.)
* * *
HERE'S the equally smarmy and deceptive press release:
”Evaluating alternatives for future of company, By Digital First Media
NEW YORK — Digital First Media, the operator of this web site and newspaper, announced Friday that it will "evaluate and consider strategic alternatives" that could lead to the sale of some or all of the company. CEO John Paton said the company has retained UBS Securities to review a full range of alternatives — including selling the entire company, selling regional clusters or doing nothing. "We believe we have many options available to us to maximize the value of our businesses for our stockholders and the board of directors has therefore decided to assess the full range of these opportunities," Paton said. In a statement the company said there are no assurances that the process will result in a transaction or transactions or on the timing of any decisions. The company also said that it will not disclose developments in the process until the board decides how it will proceed. Digital First, based in New York, was formed in December 2013 with the merger of MediaNews Group and the former Journal Register Company. It is the nation's second-largest newspaper company, based on circulation, operating in 15 states, with 800 multi-platform news and information products, including 76 daily and Sunday newspapers and 160 weeklies. The company said it serves 75 million customers monthly. The announcement follows actions by several media companies to separate their newspaper assets from their broadcasting and other businesses. The company is controlled by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital. Media analysts have speculated since last spring about Digital First's future after the company shut down its experimental, centralized digital newsroom, called project Thunderdome. Paton said Friday's action is unrelated to Thunderdome, which was one of many digital experiments the company has undertaken under his leadership. "The news information industry in America is undergoing a period of seismic change, defined by the need to consolidate to rapidly compete in a digital world," Paton said. "The companies that will succeed are those which have meaningful scale and digital expertise. By anticipating the rapid revolution in our industry and responding to stay ahead of the curve, DFM has clearly emerged as a leading player, based on the high quality of our assets and the extensive work we have done to transform them into multi-platform products.”
Digital First's largest properties include the San Jose Mercury News, The Denver Post, the Los Angeles Daily News, the New Haven Register, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and the Salt Lake Tribune.
IT’S TIME FOR OUR ANNUAL COMPLAINT about the County’s complete lack of ordinary management procedures as applied to their own departments. Not one person in Official Mendocino County has the remotest interest in keeping track of what’s actually happening in their 30-some departments, some of them quite large. It’s so bad that most senior line workers (my late brother included) spoke constantly about how little interest the CEO and the Board of Supervisors have in the workings of the departments they theoretically supervise.
THE EMPLOYEES never see any top managers, let alone a supervisor, nobody asks any questions. Once in a while — at the complete discretion of the department, never at the request of management — some sub-manager-functionary will deliver a highly scripted Powerpoint presentation, sans any useful operational numbers or reports. There are no routine monthly reports from department heads about what’s going on — budget, staffing, lost time (time away from work), departmental cost drivers, projects, problems, deferred maintenance, forecasts, organizational interfaces — nothing. NOTHING! EVER! The Three Proverbial Monkeys know more about what’s going on in Mendo’s semi-vast empire than the Board of Supervisors.
LATELY, there’s been some discussion of Mental Health in the aftermath of the Grand Jury’s accurate report about Mental Health Director Tom Pinizzotto’s conflicted connections with the contractor doing whatever Mental Health “work” is being done in Mendocino County. A couple of County officials have actually told us that Ortner must be doing a good job because they’d hear about it if they weren’t. And if Ortner wasn't doing a good job the County could then terminate the contract with them and give the “work” to someone else. Accountability! Oversight! Quality Control! Buzzwordability, Buzzwordity, Buzzwordophobia!
PURE BULLSHIT, for several reasons. 1. Tom Pinizzotto’s obviously not going to let the Mental Health Board or the Supes know what’s really going on with his former employer and pals at Ortner. 2. Even if Pinizzotto wasn’t the gatekeeper for Mental Health, Ortner and the small remaining bookkeeping staff in what's left of the Mental Health Department can hide a lot of the important particulars behind the cloak of “privacy protection” or “confidentiality” which covers both children and adult medical services. 3. As mentioned above, nobody in authority has even asked the most basic questions: How many inmates at the jail are (or were) also Ortner clients? How many calls for emergency mental health services have come in over a given period (e.g., month)? And how many were responded to and what was the disposition? How many clients does Ortner have? How many minutes has Ortner billed the County for? What are the qualifications of the Ortner employees, and which ones are charging which rates for how much work? How many requests for mental health services have been denied or delayed? And for how long? And what is being done?
AND ON AND ON AND ON.
ESSENTIALLY, Tom Pinizzotto has arranged it so his former employer has a license to print money by doing whatever they want to do, sending the bill for x-thousand minutes to Pinizzotto who simply writes “OK TO PAY” on it, and Ortner gets paid. And no one else has the slightest idea what Ortner is actually doing or whether they are even meeting the minimal terms of their contract. Nor are the Supervisors even interested in knowing. A couple of them actually got huffy at the Grand Jury for pointing out Pinizzotto's obvious conflict of interest!
FAIR UPDATE from the AV Foodshed Folks...
We had a great day yesterday in the AV Foodshed booth at the Fair. Our space this year is larger and much more usable for presentations, as well as sitting around and visiting. We also have our new book and dvd lending library set up.
The lineup of presentations for today is pretty exciting. The schedule is attached again and there is probably a change in the 6-7 time slot. We received a message from John Cunnan that he would like to come over again and do his hands-on woodworking demo, but it hasn't been confirmed yet.
Please come check us out anytime today or tomorrow. And don't forget to stop by the Boonville Farmers' Market this morning on your way in - there are crafts and music, in addition to all the great local produce and meat.
CATCH OF THE DAY, September 12, 2014
DAVID AVALOS, Willits. Court order violation.
MICHAEL COLEMAN, Willits. Under influence of controlled substance, probation revocation.
CORY CRANFORD, Willits. Vehicle theft, receiving stolen property, possession of meth/device for smoking-injectin, driving on suspended license, failure to appear.
JAVIER ESCALERA, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
GEORGE JOHNSON III, Ukiah. Domestic assault, driving without a license.
BRENDA LUCERO, Ukiah. Under influence of controlled substance, possession of smoking-injecting device. (Photo not available.)
REMO McCOSKER, Ukiah. Possesion of meth, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
JASON McMILLEN, Fort Bragg. DUI, probation revocation.
JUSTIN PEACOCK, Ukiah. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)
ERNEST SALO, Fort Bragg. Domestic assault, under influence of controlled substance, court order violation, probation revocation.
SCOTTY WILLIS, Ukiah. Violation of court order. (Frequent flyer.)
THE BIG PICTURE: I don't know anything about the Middle East except what I read, but I think it's safe to say Obama's expansion of desert warfare into Syria will put the quag all the way into the ongoing quagmire. Making sudden allies out of one group of fanatics on the assumption that they'll fight the worst fanatics is not a sound strategy. Our vaunted flyboys can blow up sand dunes from 30,000 feet for a few months, but at some point the beheaders will have to be beheaded by “boots on the ground,” as the current cliché has it. And those boots, according to Obama, will be mostly our new friends in Syria “advised” by Americans, i.e., special forces and, eventually, thousands of American troops because our new friends will either have run away or joined the other side and special forces won't be enough. You can see it all coming, this latest consequence of empire. And Hillary and/or whatever lunatic the Republicans are certain to come up with, will double down on Obama's blunder.
SO, GENERAL ANDERSON, what would you do? I'd be inclined to do absolutely nothing, or next to nothing, other than perhaps draw a perimeter around Baghdad and make the people who live there defend it, and try Bush and Cheney for treason because their lies got US into this. But seeing as how the whole show really comes down to oil, let the Muslims fight until someone wins and, if one shares imperial assumptions, which I don't, do imperial business with whoever that winner is. We got along fine with Middle East thugs for years, and wouldn't it be kinda gratifying — on one level — to see the Saudis get it?
AND ANOTHER THING: The two-game suspension of Niner's (and Cal's) play-by-play guy Ted Robinson: Robinson said he thought it was “pathetic” that Ray Rice's girlfriend, now his wife, was defending Rice. (If you somehow missed the Rice saga, he's the NFL running back who knocked his wife unconscious with an uppercut in a hotel elevator.) I would have used the word “sad” rather than pathetic as applied to Mrs. Rice, but a guy gets suspended from his radio job for simply saying out loud what everyone else in the country is thinking?
WHILE WE'RE TALKING SPORTS, you probably know the old Catholic school wrestling joke: “Boys, you've got to look out for the half-nelson, the full-nelson and the Father Nelson.”
WITH HIS HAND he turns my face to him
And caresses me with his fingers that still smell grim
Of rabbit's fur! God, I am caught in a snare!
I know not what fine wire is round my throat;
I only know I let him finger there
My pulse of life, and let him nose like a stoat
Who sniffs with joy before he drinks the blood.
— D.H. Lawrence
FROM A WINE WISE CONTRIBUTOR: Only 13 Anderson Valley wineries appear to have entered wines in the 2014 Mendocino County Fair Wine Competition, and most of those were long-established names: Brutacao, Greenwood Ridge, Handley, Husch, Roederer Estate, Meyer, Navarro Vineyards and Philo Ridge. Quite frankly, the poor participation is incomprehensible; the fair should be a showcase for local wines and those out-of-towners attending the fair — each one a potential customer — are driving right past the 30 or so local tasting rooms. Not sure whether the problem lies with competition entrance costs, a lack of confidence by wineries or poor leadership by the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association, but a concerted effort is needed to achieve better participation next year.
OBAMA'S MISSION IMPOSSIBLE
President Obama's strategy of destroying the Islamic State (new name for ISIS/ISSL) by expanding airstrikes to Syria, arming a ragtag militia and no boots on the ground is a mission impossible. The Islamic State is for all purposes a de facto state. It controls a wide swath of Iraq, has an army by a recent CIA report of 20,000 to 31,500 soldiers, a political arm that runs the civil affairs in their occupied territory, and a financial arm that handles their income and investments. The Free Syria Army (FSA) which Obama wants to arm is a mismatch in terms of manpower and commitment. There are several million people in Ragga Province and the Islamic State is embedded in the civilian population. Does any one doubt that airstrikes will result a high level of “collateral damage”?
The problem is compounded by his refusal to partner with Assad or the Iran-led shi'ite militias in Iraq. As to the coalition of countries he has put together, none of them will be putting boots on the ground. The final joker is his comparing Somalia and Yemen with this situation. He is out of touch with reality — apples and oranges.
In peace, Jim Updegraff, Sacramento
THE MEDIA FUELS THE MADNESS
Perpetual War is Fine With the New York Times After All
by Norman Solomon
The editorial board of the New York Times has an Orwellian knack for war. Sixteen months ago, when President Obama gave oratorical lip service to ending “perpetual war,” the newspaper quickly touted that end as a democratic necessity. But now — in response to Obama’s speech Wednesday night announcing escalation of war without plausible end — the Times editorial voice is with the endless war program.
Under the headline “The End of the Perpetual War,” published on May 23, 2013, the Times was vehement, calling a new Obama speech “the most important statement on counterterrorism policy since the 2001 attacks, a momentous turning point in post-9/11 America.” The editorial added: “For the first time, a president stated clearly and unequivocally that the state of perpetual warfare that began nearly 12 years ago is unsustainable for a democracy and must come to an end in the not-too-distant future.”
The Times editorial board was sweeping in its conclusion: “Mr. Obama told the world that the United States must return to a state in which counterterrorism is handled, as it always was before 2001, primarily by law enforcement and the intelligence agencies. That shift is essential to preserving the democratic system and rule of law for which the United States is fighting, and for repairing its badly damaged global image.”
But the “essential” shift is now dispensable and forgettable, judging from the New York Times editorial that appeared hours after Obama’s pivotal speech Wednesday night. The newspaper’s editorial board has ditched the concept that the state of perpetual war is unsustainable for democracy.
Under the headline “The Attack on ISIS Expands to Syria,” the Times editorial offers only equivocal misgivings without opposition “as President Obama moves the nation back onto a war footing.” Without a fine point on the matter, we are to understand that war must be perpetuated without any foreseeable end.
The concluding paragraph of the New York Times editorial in the Sept. 11, 2014 edition is already historic and tragic. It sums up a liberal style of murmuring reservations while deferring to the essence of U.S. policies for perpetual war: “The American military’s actions in the Middle East has (sic) often fueled Arab anger, even when the United States was spending billions of dollars on beneficial programs, including health and education. Mr. Obama expressed confidence that the plan against ISIS will work and, at the moment, seems aware of the risks he takes.”
Like the vast bulk of the rest of U.S. mass media, when push comes to militaristic shove, the New York Times refuses to make a break from the madness of perpetual war. In fact, with rare exceptions, the dominant media outlets end up fueling that madness. A strong challenge to it will have to come from elsewhere. From us.
(Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.org. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.)