Paywall? We don’t need no stinkin’ paywall!

It seems that media corporations are constantly shifting income streams, or at the very least, what could be income streams. I speak, particularly, of newspapers online.

I can’t remember which site is behind a paywall and which is not. I just signed up for an introductory offer from The New York Times. No, I’m not being haughty. I am just acknowledging the newspaper’s place in the media food chain. I can handle $8 a month for a year, at least. Who knows, maybe by the end of the year the paywall might be gone.

Some of my favorite newspapers, including those I have freelanced for, now block me by a wall. I suppose if I freelanced for those papers again, they might just send me background stories for free.

Other papers, including those for whom I was employed, would most likely send me a hard copy. Reporters or editors are not usually sticklers for their paper’s paywall. That is, at least a story or two they would email me.

Yes, it is THAT Washington Post March. Do you have a problem with the MARINE CORPS band playing it? That's what I thought.
Yes, it is THAT Washington Post March. Do you have a problem with the MARINE CORPS band playing it? That’s what I thought.

I usually begin the day reading Google News, that great aggregator of various newspapers, magazines and blogs. The other, or another, great American newspaper — famous Marine Corps bandleader John Phillip Sousa wrote a stirring march at the behest of the paper — The Washington Post also limits my viewing. They didn’t for several years. I can read Post articles at work, on my work computer, but some folks have to actually work at work.

I am very glad that most of the articles I read on Google News, even the Post articles that are posted on Google  News sometimes, let me read the entire story without having to pay like some toll road with hidden signs.

No doubt, newspapers large and small, need to make money. And probably reversing the normal path for newspaper leadership, was my first newspaper job. It was a small weekly where I was editor, writer, photographer, janitor and boss to an assistant. I was also, I suppose one might say, a de facto publisher, or at least “associate publisher.” That means I not only had to fill up usual eight pages, I likewise was — although no mandate was mentioned — had to think about the bottom line. The publisher’s step-daughter became my advertising rep and she was spectacular. She and I would collaborate on ways we could raise a little money here and there. I suppose the testament given to me about the job I had done, presented by my publisher/boss upon my leaving, paid me the ultimate compliment.

It was funny. I went to talk to my boss — a newspaper guy who started out selling newspapers on the street as a boy — with the intention to give him my two-weeks notice. Before I could even begin taking about a new job as a reporter at a small daily, the publisher spoke about the good job I did and asked me if I wanted the job as editor of a larger newspaper. I don’t remember if it was weekly or twice-weekly.

“We made a profit for the first time with you working there,” said my boss.

I ended up resigning but I came away feeling really good about my first two and a half years in newspapers.

There must be a way for the whole story where users read stories without paywalls in the way. I don’t like all the pop-up ads on websites. I hate with a passion those sites that come at you in a multi-media assault. Those video ads dig into the data usage I have to monitor on my Verizon account. But a newspaper has to make a profit and has to figure out how to fit into this digital world.

We have gone so far from my first uses of the internet some 20 years ago when I could only see text products. I don’t know how, but surely — and don’t call my Shirley — where there is a will there is a way with free internet contact. How to get there is the big question.

Mr. Trump grow some hide

Much ado about nothing has been made concerning the Donald Trump-N.Y. Times dust-up over the latter’s weekend article painting the presumptive GOP presidential candidate in a misogynistic light. How on earth would the average reader think such a thought, especially since his public feud with Fox News host Megyn Kelly?

I have to say that the two latest stories about Trump, one the story in the Times on his relations with women and the other where Trump presumably calls a reporter claiming to be The Donald’s publicist, are pretty weak as important journalism is concerned.

What these stories and his reactions to these articles do express — again and again — is that Trump has to be the most thin-skinned politician ever. I thought George W. Bush would hold that title for a while, at least in recent times. But no, Trump has Bush Junior beat all to hell.

It is Trump speaking about how he would open up liable laws that should make a Republican think deeply as to how much of the elephant brand Trump rides upon?

Aren’t the folks like the Koch Brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the latter which publishes several newspapers across the nation — including one in my neighborhood — supposedly the right’s last bastion for tort reform?

Well those aforementioned entities do not like so-called frivolous lawsuits. Although, it has yet to be determined whether the Koch boys will join behind Mr. Trump in his foolish presidential exercise.

Donald Trump has not been exactly silent over his use of the court system to help his business  — be that bankruptcy courts or varied civil lawsuits.

Now surely a self-respecting Republican, considering there is such a creature, would not open themselves to charges of being a hypocrite. But the moniker does not seem to bother GOP members at all.

One charge I do not lodge against our local U.S. Chamber of Commerce tort-reform rags is its journalistic ethics. The paper makes its position known in editorials. But it is usually “just the facts ma’am” when it comes to giving details of lawsuits. When I covered civil suits as a reporter for a “real” newspaper, I did not often stray from what was charged and what was replied in the charging document.

As one who was sued in a fairly well-known story that, luckily, my company at the time paid for and the suit being tossed by a federal judge, I realize how frivolous suits are a pain in the ass and are potentially harmful. Still, lawsuits are part of justice. I feel such cases are an extra level of care for our society.

If we are so unfortunate to elect a meathead like Donald Trump, and yes, if he can call people names then so may I call hi names as well, we must hope that future new justices of our highest courts do not reverse New York Times v. Sullivan nor other important media legal precedents. We ask for such not because people should be called names or have hurtful allegations made against them which are not true. We should ask for such a helpful case so those with no power may defend themselves against the Trumps of the world

Does Trump really think he will win the presidency?

One of the more interesting stories I have read lately about Donald Trump and his quest for the Republican presidential nomination has not seen wide play. The story, which I first read on March 28, was on the online magazine Slate. It concerned a supposed high-ranking Trump Super Pac strategist who contends the boisterous candidate never intended to succeed in his campaign.

  Stephanie Cegielski wrote on the blog that the Trump camp only sought the candidate getting “double-digit” support.

  “The Trump camp would have been satisfied to see him polling at 12% and taking second place to a candidate who might hold 50%, Cegielski said. “His candidacy was a protest candidacy.”

But the momentum shifted in favor of Trump because of the “angry” American voters. As The Donald passed far beyond what the candidate allegedly hoped for, the narcissistic Trump changed his expectations much like his quick change of issues. Cegielski said that was too scary.

  “He certainly was never prepared or equipped to go all the way to the White House, but his ego has now taken over the driver’s seat, and nothing else matters,” she said. “The Donald does not fail. The Donald does not have any weakness. The Donald is his own biggest enemy.”

Not surprisingly, the main Trump-ette pushed back on the letter and its writer. Hope Hicks, the campaign spokeswoman, responded:

This person was never employed by the Trump campaign. Evidently she worked for a Super PAC which Mr. Trump disavowed and requested the closure of via the FEC. She knows nothing about Mr. Trump or the campaign and her disingenuous and factually inaccurate statements in no way resemble any shred of truth. This is yet another desperate person looking for their fifteen minutes.”

The rumor-rebuking site,, pointed out some claims as to the position Cegielski held in the “Make America Great Again” Super PAC were hyperbolized.

Having spent some of my years as a firefighter and  and later as journalist has given me some wisdom as to what most would call a cliche, that where there’s smoke there is fire. Well, at least where there is smoke means that there is a good chance of a fire. Arguably, human actions can be a bit more complex than the fire tetrahedron — the combination of  fuel, heat, air and chemical reaction. Such thinking may lead to stereotypes but that is not what I am saying here.

The thought that Trump has an ulterior motive for a presidential bid is likely a more difficult scenario to knock down. From the time that the businessman Trump decided to run as a Republican, I fully expected him to reach a certain point saying that he quits because everything is just as he intended.

That there are exaggerations in Cegielski’s resume does not seem far-fetched for anyone at any level of a political campaign. Or perhaps that may be said in most instances in which a resume is used. Well, maybe that is not so good if you are in some portion of the theological field. But even there …

Whether the essay written by Cegielski has truths, half-truths or even next-to-no truths, there is no doubt that Donald Trump in his latest attention-grabbing stunt — although a huge one —  is capable of doing or saying anything. That is a consummate action of a flake, and I sometimes adore flakes, though certainly not this flake and not this time.

“The Republican Hour”

Watching the CNN program “Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer just now makes me think the program should be renamed “The Republican Hour.”

Clap for the Wolfman.
Clap for the Wolfman.

The Senate Armed Services Committee member Tom Cotton, R, Ark, held forth on the Brussels attack as well as slamming the president over going to a ball game in Cuba while the attack was happening. Cotton was one of the Republican congressional members who met this week with Donald Trump. This came only a couple of weeks after a secret meeting  among the powerful in tech and politics discussing how to stop Trump. And who was on the guest list? Reportedly, Sen. Tom Cotton attended. The young Arkansas senator would not criticize Trump and only say about The Donald’s stand on waterboarding or beyond, that “the United States of America doesn’t torture.” He said “all” American soldiers undergo waterboarding. I don’t know whether that is true. I know it has been used in surviving training, especially with Special Forces. If you happened to be an active Army member or recent retired or former soldier send me a message.

Cotton served in the Army. He was a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan although he reportedly spent most of his time in ceremonial duties in Washington, D.C.

Next up was another Wolf favorite, Sen. John McCain, R, he took the slam Obama route by saying we have a lack of leadership in fighting ISIS. As a prisoner of war in Vietnam, McCain went through torture that is beyond imagination. I was glad to hear his stand against torture, although with McCain, you never know when he may go off the deep end.

Blitzer has been chummy with GOP congressional members, particularly after the party gained the majority in Congress. To be fair, most of the members interviewed by Blitzer are either committee or subcommittee chairs even though some would quibble over that detail.

A favorite of  Wolf’s is the weasel-look-alike, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R, Utah, head of the House Committee on Oversight and Government. Say what you will, Chaffetz has an interesting background. He was a Democrat in college. His father was previously married to Kitty Dickson, the wife of former Democrat presidential candidate, and ex-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. Chaffetz was the co-chairman of the Dukakis campaign in Utah. Chaffetz was rejected after applying to the U.S. Secret Service. He was chairman for the Jon Huntsman GOP campaign for president during the 2004 campaign and was later Huntsman’s chief of staff. Despite his background with liberal and moderate politicians of both parties he is usually a hard-ass right-winger when the situation calls for it. Take his proposals which would reward the anti-government nuts like Clive Bundy.

This is not to say Wolf has gone native. But he does frequently have call-in interviews with Donald Trump, and it is no doubt that Blitzer was one of the large contributors of the estimated $2 billion in free advertising for the Trump.

Okay, maybe I just pick on the Republicans interviewed by Blitzer. I do think the famous cable journalist still has the reporter’s yearning for the “big scoop.” And, as I write this Wolf is about to interview a Democrat in Congress, so I will just conclude with this. I imagine true-believer Republicans still think CNN as that “liberal” network. I don’t think so. But I suppose it is all how one interprets the news.

Flooding shutters Interstate 10 at Texas-La. border

The flooding along the Texas and Louisiana border is undoubtedly no big national story. That is because, perhaps, a half-million people reside there as opposed to larger metro areas. The same limited media coverage also happened in this part of the U.S. during Hurricanes Rita and Ike. Sure there were the TV people who parachuted in and got their “Dan Rather” routine, trying to stand up in the wind and rain while talking. I imagine some of these folks could even chew gum at the same time.

But have no doubt this flooding is affecting millions of people merely because the flood waters in the Sabine River between Texas and Louisiana has submerged Interstate 10. Texas transportation officials say it could be Tuesday or later until it is reopened.

The most recent Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) figures, that I could find after an hour of searching, from 2013 shows about 48,500 automobiles travel I-10 just outside the southwestern Beaumont city limit. Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city is, mostly, west from there some 75-to-80 miles. Near where Interstate 10 intersects with what are basically three highways in Beaumont — US 69, US 96 and US 287 — more than 130,000 vehicles travel per day. On about 25 miles east, at the Texas-Louisiana border, the traffic count is about 46, 000. You talk about cars, trucks, buses to the Louisiana casinos, and so forth going here and there, that is a lot of people.


The flooding at the I-10 bridge at the Texas border in Orange — that city was devastated from storm surge in 2008 from Hurricane Ike  and now may see even worse flooding — was the scene Wednesday of confusion between the two states and no doubt left much head-scratching among those in the more than 46,000 vehicles which head east and west.

It is really difficult to keep up with the confusing details of the I-10 closures at the Texas-Louisiana border. Wednesday morning, TxDOT was supposedly poised to close the Sabine River bridge. The Louisiana State Police did close the westbound lanes to the bridge. But the eastbound routes remained open, for awhile at least. Returning from Houston yesterday on I-10, I saw probably five or six electronic signs that warned the bridge was completely closed, in both directions.

Amid this confusion, TxDOT issued some I-10 alternate route information that made me wonder if the information was clear enough for the average driver who does not live in this part of the state, or even if they are from elsewhere.

  • El Paso take I-20 East of Van Horn
  • San Antonio take I-35 North to I-20 East to Shreveport
  • Houston take US 59 North to I-20 East to Shreveport
  • Beaumont take US 96 North to US 69 North to US 59 North to I-20 East to Shreveport

At least the last alternative made apprehensive. US 96 to 69 — remember they are considered the same along with US 287 going northward from Beaumont. That is really no problem but I think the transportation department might have added: In Lufkin, turn right on Loop 287 and take the US 59 exit toward Nacogdoches. Trust me, I lived in Nacogdoches for many years and those directions are seared in my brain.

All of those alternatives were not meant for me, of course. I think later, when the Sabine River bridge was opened on US 190 in Bon Wier, Texas, TxDOT gave the alternative to travel up US 96 to US 190 in Jasper, from where the state line is about 25 miles east to southeast on that highway toward Baton Rouge.

I worked today so maybe I didn’t read everything about traffic on I-10 that I needed to. I was quite surprised though when heading to downtown Beaumont this morning where I-10 was reduced from three lanes to one lane. It turned out, I didn’t even have the option of going on east to downtown. Traffic was being rerouted at the I-10 split with US 69/96/287. I found a way off and made my on alternate route to downtown. I wish I had known that I couldn’t drive on the interstate the way I usually do. To be fair, I had to go out westbound on I-10 later on, and coming home I saw that an electric sign message said that the interstate would be closed at the exit where the routes to the Piney Woods split.

These are all minor inconveniences to me. The majority of the area hit hardest on the Texas side of the Sabine is where I grew up and where my closest relatives and  old friends still reside. Several family members are working to keep others safe. One of those — a niece — is helping others even though she and her family had to be rescued by military personnel. Hopes for her home surviving are dismal, from the last messages I have seen.

This is, literally, a disaster. A large portion of this area in Texas has been declared a disaster area by the state. Gov. Greg Abbott, the Republican executive of Texas, flew over the region in a chopper. I am hopeful President Obama will also declare these counties as a disaster area.

Looking at such wreckage makes you forget your own minor problems — like some traffic slow-down. I do hope TxDOT will learn from their mistakes and miscues. Obviously, Texas and our neighbor to the east need better communication.