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Monday, August 31, 2009

SF Chronicle - a plan to help the newspaper

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I happened to run upon an article in today's edition of "Editor and Publisher" which reported that the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper (SFGate.com is the Chronicle website) was planning more layoffs after Labor Day. It may not happen, let's pray not, but staff reductions could come as soon as next week.

Apparently, even after the last round of job cuts about two months ago or so, the newspaper is still losing $1 million a week or about $4 million a month, or a whopping $48 million-a-year loss.

That's really, really sad news as a paper is nothing without the personalities who made it, but I think there's something that can be done to at least save some jobs and stem the tide of revenue losses.

There are as of this writing 2,780,000 pages that make up SFGate.com. My idea is simple: add a donate button to each one of them.

The button would be at the top left of each page. A person could donate as little as $1 and as much as $1,000, but let's say the average donation was $2.

SFGate.com draws about 9 million monthly unique visitors according to this press release issued earlier this year. That comes down to about 290,000 unique visitors a day.

Let's say that just 30,000 people or about 10 percent of the daily visitor count posted a donation of $2 each. (in the video I mistakenly said 180,000 visitors and 10 percent.  That's wrong.) Over the course of a month that could be as much as $1.86 million per month in revenue. That's almost cuts the $4 million deficit in half and helps maintain newspaper staff.

That's really it; the idea's that simple.

Donation is better than news pay

I'm not a fan of the idea of charging for news, as Hearst Corporation is considering of late. It invites a process where one website can feed its content with news from the paysite, and then offer other sites and blog with the chance to link to their site rather than the paysite. Plus, with all of the journalists losing jobs, there are more people out there who know how to get a story and compete with the paysite.

The free news sites will always outnumber and outperform the paysites, regardless of how many big brands do that strategy.


Let people donate if they wish. But backing the effort with an aggressive marketing campaign and a well-designed donation button system will generate new revenue and help save the jobs of a lot of great people at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Chevron Ecuador Judge Nunez focus of bribery allegation

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In a blockbuster development, Ecuador Judge Juan Nunez, the key legal figure in the Chevron Ecuador environmental damage case, is captured in a video shown here explaining that he plans to rule against the oil giant and for an award of $27 billion "more or less". The judge explains that the verdict will happen and that Chevron will be blocked from filing an appeal of his ruling. In that segment of the video, the Judge explains he's only there to talk about the verdict, not about "the other stuff" which refers to a $3 million payoff request. Later in the video its implied that Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa will benefit from the bribe amount.

On video today I talked to Chevron Media Relations representative Sean Covey about the video and Chevron's investigation.

In the video Judge Nunez, Aulo Gelio ServioTulio Avila ("Avila"), and Pablo Almeida and are talking with two gentleman, Wayne Hansen and Diego Borja who are environmental remediation contractors and in the Judge's chamber in Lago Agrio, Ecuador.  Hansen and Borja have pen-installed camcorders in their shirt pockets.  Diego Borja has worked for Chevron before, Hansen has not, according to Chevron.

Judge Nunez (on the left)

The idea of the meeting was for the Judge and his political associates to be paid by the environmental company for business that would come to them as a result of the Judge's planned verdict.  Here's what the Judge said from the video and the Amazonpost website:

Núñez:             “Any other questions for me as a judge?”
Hansen:           “Oh no, I, I know clearly how it is, you say, Chevron is the guilty party?”
Núñez:             “Yes Sir.”
Hansen:           “And the, the, the act (decision) is October or November of this year?”
Núñez:             “Yes Sir.”
Hansen:           “And it’s….?”
Núñez:             “No later than January.”
Hansen:           “January 2010. And the money is twenty-seven (billion dollars)?”
Núñez:             “It might be less, and it might be more.”

The Judge says "I have nothing to do with that other part" which is not explained in full but Garcia below fills in "the blanks" later, explaining that the Judge will be paid part of $3 million from the consulants.

 Patricio Garcia

The second part of the video has an operative Patricio Garcia (photo from the Amazonpost website) who's reportedly a member of Ecuador's ruling party talking about how the $3 million would be delivered and transfered. This is what was said by Garcia:

Borja: “OK. Of the three million … one million is for the judge?”

Garcia: “Yes.”

Borja: “One million for the presidency…?”

Garcia: “Yes.”

Borja: “And one million for the plaintiffs?”

Garcia: “Yes, that’s right.”

Borja: “But, Loco, for the plaintiffs, who gets the money? Fajardo?”

Garcia: “No. The thing is, we’re going to handle it here.”

Borja: “You mean Alianza PAIS would receive the payment here?”

Garcia: “Right.”

Here's the 30 minute version of the video (the full two hour version is here):

But there's more to this video than what's reported in the press thus far. The focus here is on President Rafael Correa, who's office is named by Patricio Garcia as a beneficiary of the planned bribe money as is "his sister" as stated in the video above. As of this writing Correa has not issued a statement, but his reputation has already come under attack.

The second part of the video was filmed at Alianza PAIS (which means "Proud and Sovereign Fatherland" according to the Wikepedia listing)  Offices June 22, 2009.   PAIS is a political movement led by President Correa.   Who Patricio Garcia is beyond his appearance in this video and his role in PAIS is still basically unknown as of this writing. 

Garcia says that the President's sister  Pierina will be helpful (presumably in making sure that the businessmen get their piece of the planned $27 billion pie) and will meet with "The Gringo" (that's Hansen).  I checked and "Prierina" is indeed  described here as "Pierina Correa, the president's sister and an Alianza País leader in Guayas province".  That confirms my assertion that Garcia is tied to the President and his family as he states in the video.


Chevron wants Nunez taken off the case

The implication here is that as Chevron Media Relations representative Sean Corney said in my video above, Chevron wants Nunez taken off the environmental damage case.  But given that Chevron has informed the U.S. Department of Justice, the revalation could have deeper implications.  

It could cost the country its Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) status, which was just renewed in June of this year.  Whatever the case, this news sends a clear message that doing business in Ecuador is not the "clean" experience it should be. Until now, blogs have reported the problems of corruption in Ecuador and with respect to President Correa's involvement in the Chevron case, but now we have visible evidence to back those claims.

The news also forever destroys the claim made by Ecuador lawsuit legal advisor Steve Donziger and others who say that the lawsuit against Chevron has nothing to do with the Ecuadorian Government and is brought by citizens of the Amazon. But Correa has appeared with Donziger in public and has been interviewed about the case.


One can see that the bribe money's not going anywhere near those groups of people Donziger claims to represent; the political party PAIS would get it and "handle it" as Garcia said in the video.  The question is, did Donziger or his associates in Ecuador and America know about this bribe plan?  Was he to be one of the plaitiffs that would get the bribe money? In the Amazon Defense Coalition statement today, he does not address the possibility that he may be involved, instead he said "As the facts come out it's going to backfire heavily on Chevron."

Amazon Defense Coalition defends Judge Nunez

Karen Hinton of the Amazon Defense Coalition told Reuters that the video shows Judge Nunez resisting the bribery matter. (This is Hinton's full statement.)  In point of fact, the video shows the judge saying that he's speaking in the role of Judge and "does not know about that other matter" which is a way of saying he does know but does not want it to be officially said that he does know.  It's called "plausible deniability ." 

Stay tuned.


Full video transcripts:

Meeting 1 Transcript (228 KB)
Meeting 2 Transcript (195 KB)
Meeting 3 Transcript (218 KB)
Meeting 4 Transcript (217 KB)

Friday, August 28, 2009

California's economy shrinks; Schwarzenegger smokes

It's agreed that the planned March 2010 closure of the Fremont New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant is a huge economic loss, but the elimination of 4,700 jobs only scratches the surface of the problem.

That coupled with the stoppage and possible closure of the Chevron Richmond refinery, which already cost 1,100 jobs and we have a total of 5,700 direct jobs lost and over 29,000 total people thrown out of work or unable to get work in a San Francisco Bay Area that can't afford this economic hit at this time.


Yeah. 23,000 jobs. See, there's a multiplier impact with business operation such that an office or a manufacturer contracts with other businesses for supplies and services.

The action of a small business owner walking down to the local store to buy printer paper is part of the multiplier effect because that small expenditure helps the retailer run his or her business. Or that person's employee - even if it's just the owner - eating lunch at the local cafe helps keep it a "going concern."

It's well-known amoung urban planners that manufacturing jobs have larger multipliers than service jobs. The Alliance for American Manufacturing reports that for every one manufacturing job lost, there are four more lost in other areas of the economy. The Bay Area has been losing such "basic industry"  jobs  - and energy counts here - at a frighteningly rapid pace.

No Sense of an Economic Emergency

What bothers me is there's no one acting like there's an economic emergency with the exception of California Senator Diane Feinstein, who called the plant's loss a "devistating blow" to California. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger seems not to care, stating:

"Today is a sad day in the history of Fremont as California joins the ranks of states adversely affected by the bankruptcy of General Motors and the worldwide collapse in demand for automobiles. ... We continue work already in progress ... to ensure appropriate employee severance, proper environmental remediation and assistance in transforming the site to alternative uses."
Alternative uses?  Like what? A parking lot?   The governor says nothing of retaining and establishing jobs at the wage levels the NUMMI workers have today.   Awful statement to release.   The word "Jobs" does not appear once in it.&

Meanwhile the Toyota jobs are to go to Canada and Texas, which means that perhaps 50 percent of the employment opportunities are leaving America at a time when we're supposed to reverse that trend. If the Chevron plant closes, the jobs move south to Southern California, but it spells curtains on the Bay Area's set of jobs for low skilled workers.

Objective: Jobs for everyone

I'm really sick of the idea that everyone has to be trained to be a brain surgeon, then sit back at home waiting for a job and hoping that more in the population have something wrong with their skull. After World War II and into the '60s America had the objective of full employment - a job for everyone, period. You don't hear that kind of idealism expressed by politicians today.

That must change.

It has to start with California rediscovering economic development and doing whatever it can to save jobs and build on them. Governor Schwarzenegger needs to show the fire in the belly necessary to do this. Right now, the only fire he give off comes from one of his expensive cigars.

Which, I might add, are not made in California.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Miley Cyrus' stripper pole dance at Teen Choice Awards

When I learned that teen star and Twitter mogul Miley Cyrus had literally done a number on a stripper pole at the Teen Choice Awards Monday night, two thoughts entered my mind: first, who convinced the 16 year old to do it, second, does this mean a sex tape's in her future too. I say and write that because I learned she and her father Billy Ray Cyrus came up with the dance production idea. So if her dad's cool with his daughter dancing around that pole at her age, the sky's the limit, right? More at:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Miley Cyrus' stripper pole dance at Teen Choice Awards

TAKE THE POLL - http://www.pollsb.com/polls/p2137290-...



When I learned that teen star and Twitter mogul Miley Cyrus had literally done a number on a stripper pole at the Teen Choice Awards Monday night, two thoughts entered my mind: first, who convinced the 16 year old to do it, second, does this mean a sex tape's in her future too. I say and write that because I learned she and her father Billy Ray Cyrus came up with the dance production idea. So if her dad's cool with his daughter dancing around that pole at her age, the sky's the limit, right?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lou Dobbs home to "birthers" and white supremacists

http://www.zennie62.com - After years of ducking complaints about his occasionally offensive coverage, Lou Dobbs, host of CNN's Lou Dobbs show, may finally see either the end of his days of pretty much getting away with whatever crap he puts out, or the end of his show altogether.

Obama "Beer Summit" , Crowley Press Conference

http://zennie2005.blogspot.com/2009/0... - http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/a... - President Barack Obama held a "Beer Summit" today, as some have called it, with Harvard Professor Henry Lewis Gates, Jr., Cambridge Police Sergeant Officer James Crowley, and Vice President Joe Biden, bring an end to an unfortunate but necessary event in American Cultural history, and starting a new chapter in American race relations.

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