Why Newspaper Readers Are Mad and Don’t Rent from Budget…

March 9, 2013

Why Newspaper readers are mad

Jay Jochowitz, the editorial page editor at the Times Union, complained recently on Facebook about the public’s anger in dealing with the newspaper. One commentator thought the problem stemmed from the Internet and the ability of people to rant and rave–as if letting the public speak and be heard is a bad thing in a democracy. My take is that the anger at the media stems from the breakdown of the distinction between the opinion pages and news pages.

People my age remember when stories on the New York Times news pages weren’t editorials posing as news stories. That breakdown should be seen through the prism of class. The news media is seen as a biased vehicle of those in power in this country. That means non-college educated Americans and working and middle class white males find their views treated with disdain at best in the national news media. Hence the anger, which in the case of the Times Union, is exacerbated by the fact that the TU does not allow readers to comment on news stories.

I suspect Jay and my friend Rex Smith, the TU’s editor, are in favor of allowing reader comments. Maybe they need to let corporate Hearst listen in on some of those angry phone calls. Then they can explain that one way to reduce the number and volume of those calls would be to allow readers to express their views on news stories as well as editorials.

Don’t Rent from Budget Rental Cars…

I made the mistake of renting from Budget on a recent trip to Albany. They were the first name on the list and had I known they are not on the airport, I would have skipped over them.

Having to get them to pick me up at the airport was only the start of my problems. Because it took so long for someone to pick me up, I was worried about being late for an appointment and misunderstood the agent’s explanation of gas payment options–a fact I only discovered when I turned the car in.

Now here’s why you shouldn’t rent from Budget. When I explained the problem to the agent when I dropped off my car, he told me I would have to call Budget’s 800#…which I did only to be told the Albany office is a franchise and I would have to talk to the owners. However, it’s impossible to get the owners on the phone. Either they’re not there or they pretend they’re not.

This problem is not unique to Albany. I’m in Tucson this week. One of the first stories I read in the local paper is about a similar problem. Someone was overcharged and corporate Budget tried to pass the buck blaming the franchisee.

Bottom line. Avoid Budget at all costs.


Best Ed Koch Obit

February 1, 2013

The best obit written about Ed Koch, one that sums up his career most accurately without overstating his pluses and minuses is Benjamin Smith’s piece on the New York Sun online.

Here’s the link: http://www.nysun.com/new-york/mayor-koch-self-proclaimed-liberal-with-sanity/88177/

Sandy is Katrina Repeat

December 3, 2012

How well prepared was the federal government’s disaster recovery agency for the impact of Sandy? About as well prepared as they were for Katrina it appears. Which means not well prepared at all.

Despite the Siena College poll giving high marks to FEMA, the facts on the ground are very different.

See Answers in short supply as exasperated Staten Islanders throng Sandy forum.

Of course, Siena wasn’t able to poll any of the people who are frustrated with FEMA because those people don’t have houses much less telephones!

That exposes the flaw in polling. The positive response reflects news coverage about the event and the news media have largely ignored FEMA’s failures in dealing with Sandy’s victims–in contrast to how they treated FEMA after Katrina.

It’s a self-fulfilling proposition. Tell people FEMA is doing a good job. Then ask them how FEMA is doing! But don’t ask the victims. That would spoil the story.

Election Analysis: What Went Wrong; What Can Be Done

November 8, 2012

2012 will go down as the year the Republicans proved wrong the theory that said a president could not get re-elected if the country faced high, persistent unemployment and slow growth.

Mr. Romney did considerably better than John McCain in 2008, but he failed to take advantage of Mr. Obama’s low approval rating and the country’s economic ills. Why?

The seeds of Romney’s failure can be found in the primary debates. Facing half a dozen challengers attacking him from the right, Mr. Romney took a hard line on immigration. Newt Gingrich was crucified for trying to avoid that pitfall, but Romney walked right into it. As a result, Romney won a lower percentage of Hispanic votes than either John McCain or George W. Bush. That cost him heavily in the battleground states.

Mr. Nice Guy

The second problem that showed up in the debate was his personality. Mr. Romney is by nature and by conviction a polite, considerate human being––too nice perhaps to be sent into battle against a veteran of Chicago style politics where it’s okay to lie as long as you sound convincing.

Romney did not fight back during the summer months when the Obama campaign painted him as a protect-the-rich vulture capitalist. Money may have had something to do with it, but after he failed to release his tax returns and was tarred with the 47% statement, he found himself in a deep hole at the start of the fall campaign.

In order to win the election, Romney had to dispel the image that he cared only for the rich and then convince people he had a plan that would help all Americans. He got off to a great start in debate #1, but the fact that Obama did so poorly may have given the Romney team a false sense of confidence. Whatever the reason, their man was not sufficiently prepared to go one-on-one with Obama in the town-hall format and then failed to attack Obama’s Benghazi cover-up during the foreign policy debate.

Instead of going toe-to-toe with Obama, Romney played presidential. Big mistake. That’s a strategy you employ when you’re ahead, not when you’re the underdog or tied.

Don’t Act Like Democrats

Republican candidates in the future need not act like Democrats––bribing special interests to get their votes. They must, however, speak to issues that impact Hispanics, seniors, etc. and where possible, take positions that address the concerns of those constituencies in constructive manner.

Mr. Romney failed to address immigration in a way that anyone found plausible. He dented the youth vote, but he did not fully disabuse seniors of the charge that he and Paul Ryan were going to gut Medicare.

On that basis I feel the Paul Ryan nomination was a mistake. In the end Ryan’s nomination appeased conservatives who were going to vote Republican anyway while doing nothing to counteract Obama’s characterization that Romney and the GOP care only about the rich. A better choice would have been Susana Martinez or Marco Rubio.

By the Numbers

Mr. Obama should consider himself fortunate to still be president. He won despite pulling 6.8 million fewer votes than in 2008, including roughly 1.6 million fewer votes from African-Americans. Had Mr. Romney won just 1.5 million of those who voted (or 1.18 percent of the total), he would have been the winner.

Cover-Up of the Cover-Up

The electorate was less than enthusiastic about Obama than in 2008 and it took an expenditure of $900 million attacking Romney to pull it off. The national news media helped Obama tremendously throughout the campaign, parroting the campaign’s accusations, downplaying Obama’s failures and then by giving President a pass on his handling of Benghazi, they prevented the cover-up from becoming the defining issue it should have been.

Some Republicans argue Romney lost because he was not a true conservative. Litmus test nominating almost may work locally, but it guarantees defeat on the national level. Others argue he waited too long to move to the center. Playing to the extreme during the primaries and then trying to move to the center during the general election is also a poor strategy because it leaves the candidate open to charges that he’s unprincipled.

What’s the answer? To win in 2016, a candidate must be willing to weather attacks both from the party’s extreme right and from the Democrats on the left. No individual should be expected to have an empty personal history closet. Rather she or he must be willing to explain the contents of that closet in a way that defuses any issue. Did admitting his youthful drug use cost Obama votes? No. But, did paying lower taxes than people with lower incomes hurt Romney? Yes, because he didn’t defuse the issue.

A successful candidate must foresee possible attacks and be prepared to deal with them. She or he must also have a clear, well thought out plan for the country. Romney was unable to convince enough people that his tax and budget numbers added up. Had he done so, he might have moved voters away from their social issue concerns to voting their economic self-interest.

The Next Four Years

How Obama handles the fiscal cliff problem will have a lot to say about where the country will be in 2014 and 2016. If he thinks he has won a mandate and won’t compromise with the Republican-controlled House, his party will take another big mid-term hit and the Republicans should be in good shape for 2016. If Obama adopts Romney’s platform of tax and entitlement reform coupled with spending control, he can create a legacy for himself and give the Democrats a chance to hold on to the White House and Senate. Time will tell.

The prevent defense, the “war” in Iraq and Roundabouts

October 25, 2012

Remember the prevent defense in football? Teams with the lead towards the end of the game would allow their opponents to move down the field with little opposition until they got close to the goal line. That technique failed as often as it worked.

If Mitt Romney loses the election Nov. 6, it will be because he went into a prevent defense during the foreign policy debate when the score was tied.


President Obama keeps saying he ended the war in Iraq. What war is he talking about? The fact of the matter is that our pulling out of Iraq didn’t end the civil war that has been raging since we removed Saddam Hussein. Pulling out our troops also pulled news stories about the ongoing violence in Iraq out of our news media.

Need proof? Here’s one statistic: “Al-Qaida in Iraq has more than doubled in strength and carries out about 140 attacks a month, up from 75 a month earlier this year.” (http://www.opposingviews.com/i/politics/myths-iraq-and-afghanistan)


From national to local: Some people in Malta, NY oppose adding more roundabouts (also known as traffic circles) to major intersections (http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2012/oct/25/public-rises-halt-roundabouts-malta/). They prefer sitting at red lights instead.

I’d put that opinion in the league of those who want us to trade in our cars for horses and buggies. Traffic circles reduce serious injuries as well as pollution (cars and trucks coming to a halt, then starting up again use extra gas and put out extra emissions), not to mention improved traffic flow. That means people get where they’re going sooner and safer. Oh! Earth to taxpayers! Traffic signals are also very expensive to purchase and maintain. Maybe those who favor electric signals ought to have the cost added to their property taxes.

Gannett Online Subscription System Fraught with Bugs

May 22, 2012

If you need an online subscription to more than one of Gannett’s newspapers be prepared to be very, very frustrated as their online sign up system seems to have been designed by high school freshmen rather than professional programmers.

The first flaw in the system is that you can’t subscribe to more than one paper with the same email address. The Empire Page needs to subscribe to all of the NYS papers…which means creating a bunch of one-off email addresses, e-mail to which will never land in our in-box.

Then their customer service system can’t distinguish which paper you are calling about. If you call about your online subscription, the first thing they ask you for is your mailing address, which is irrelevant when it comes to online subscriptions…or one would think so.

When I called about fixing a password problem with one paper, since they didn’t know which paper I was calling about, they changed the password at the wrong paper and I had to call back.

Finally, and this is the piece de resistance, when I tried to subscribe to the Ithaca Journal’s online subscription, their system rejected me because I don’t live in their delivery area. I thought a major benefit of offering online subscriptions was to service people who can’t get your print product. Not apparently for Gannett!

I don’t object to their charging to access their news, but this isn’t the dawn of the computer age folks. Can’t you test these things before you unleash them on the unsuspecting public?!

Washington Post Now Washington Enquirer

May 11, 2012

Marcus Brauchli, executive editor of the Washington Post, announced today that the newpaper’s name will changed to the Washington Enquirer for the remainder of the 2012 election season.

“Our goal is to provide our readers with the most salacious election coverage in the country. Today’s hatchet job on Mitt Romney’s prep school days is just the beginning.”

At the same time Brauchli announced that Jayson Blair has been hired as deputy news editor and Sari Horowitz has been promoted to national election assignment editor.

Blair was fired by the New York Times in 2003 for plagiarism and news fabrication. Horwtiz plagiarized two paragraphs from the Arizona Republic story about Jared Loughner the man who killed six people and severely wounded former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Blair thanked Brauchli for the opportunity to resume his career. “I mean to prove that I can make up facts with the best of the Post’s current writers,” he stated.

“We have more stories like today’s attack on Romney waiting for the right moment to publish,” Horwitz stated. “We do anything we can to discredit him since there’s little we can say that our readers will believe about Barack Obama’s presidency.”