Category Archives: Blogs and blog administration

Bacon Takes Aim, Shoots Foot

shooting_footMy apologies to the Department of Environmental Quality, the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and most of all readers: Late yesterday or early this morning I accidentally published a rough draft of an article about environmental regulation of natural gas pipelines in Virginia. That draft was incomplete. I still had reporting to do, and I had not fact checked it. I have removed the draft from the blog in order to continue working on it.

— JAB

Back in Action… Almost

We're back!

We’re back!

It’s been a remarkably long and arduous process to restore the Bacon’s Rebellion blog after it was knocked out by a denial-of-service attack a month ago. For two weeks, it was literally impossible to access the files, and I continued publishing the blog only by jury-rigging a new, bare-bones website. Then, in the two weeks following, it turned out to be far more complicated than expected to migrate a decade’s worth of posts, images and comments from Hostmonster, whose responsiveness in this crisis situation was execrable, to Godaddy, which may or may not prove to be any better. We’ll see.

I can safely say that the task was way beyond my capabilities — it turns out that Godaddy’s WordPress blog publishing software has a different file structure than Hostmonster’s — and I never could have done it without the help of reader JP Barringer. A partner in the web design firm (Barrel Strength) Design, JP repeatedly worked into the wee hours of the night. I have become accustomed to arising early in the morning and reading his email updates time-stamped as late as 2:00 a.m.

We are close to regaining full functionality. For reasons unknown, the widgets in the side columns were not restored when JP published the blog early this morning. We will work to restore those over the next hour or two. Meanwhile, JP has added some features that should make the website faster and more secure.

If something isn’t working right– if you’re not receiving your email updates, having difficulty making comments, whatever — let me know at jabacon[at]baconsrebellion.com (substituting “@” for “[at]”). I’ll get on it as soon as I can.

— JAB

The Disintegration of Newspapers Accelerates

Woodward and Bernstein. The glory days of newspaper journalism are long gone.

Woodward and Bernstein. The glory days of newspaper journalism are long gone.

by James A. Bacon

The disintegration of the newspaper industry is accelerating. Even as the global advertising market is expected to grow 4% this year, spending on newspaper print ads is expected to decline 8.7% in 2016, according to estimates from GroupM, an ad-buying firm, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. That would be the biggest drop since the last recession. Leading newspaper brands like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal are getting clobbered just as hard as the smaller papers.

That decline appears to be matched by a decline in local newspaper advertising spending. I made a quick count of advertising pages in the T-D today. After excluding the non revenue-producing in-house ads and public service ads, the 38-page newspaper edition contained roughly six pages of display and classified advertising, plus a six-page advertorial insert. In the heyday of the newspaper industry, advertising comprised up to 50% of the newspaper lineage.

Newspapers are migrating as rapidly as they can to online advertising, and they are making gains. But they have much more competition in cyberspace, and the revenue yield per eyeball is lower than it is for print. Thus, while a full-page ad in a national paper might run $100 per 1,000 readers, the WSJ reports, prime-time TV ads run about $37. I haven’t checked online advertising recently, but as I recall the cost of banner ads runs around $1 or $2.

Readers of print ads are literally dying off, and so is the print-based business model that supports newsroom staffs that, though shrinking, are still substantial. What everyone needs to contemplate — and that includes Google, Facebook, and all the other technology-driven platforms that have extracted most of the economic value from online readership — is what happens when newspapers begin folding one by one. Who will report the news?

Look at all the online news aggregators — they feed off content created by others. They spend zero, zip, nada on creating content themselves. What happens when their reputable news content dries up? What will they have to aggregate? What will people have to comment upon? These entities will be exposed for the parasites they are.

I frequently chastise local newspapers for voids or failings in their coverage. But that coverage, as imperfect as it is, is vastly preferable to the information sources that would be available if there were no newsrooms. While in-depth investigating reporting is nearly dead in Virginia, reporters still cover important public hearings and other events. Without newspaper reporters, we would have almost no idea of what is happening. (I’m sorry, I don’t take TV news seriously. Local TV covers only the most controversial topics, and their format requires them to boil down complex stories to one- and two-minute snippets that skim the surface.)

Yes, newspapers’ framing of issues is biased (subtly on the part of local media, blatantly on the part of national media) by the values and worldviews of the journalists, who skew center-left. But the journalistic ethic tempers biases by fostering an ideal of objectivity that requires reporters (a) to check facts, and (b) to take note of differing points of view.

As local newsrooms shrink, there will be fewer journalists to cover a society that grows ever more complex. Reporters will know less and less about the topics they are writing about, and their coverage inevitably will become more and more shallow. At some point their value-add will be negligible. Then our main sources of information will be press releases, think tank studies, official presentations at public hearings, commentary, and bloggers unconstrained by journalistic ethics of any kind.

If you thought the state of public discourse in America couldn’t get any worse, think again.

Blog Update

The old server that served Bacon’s Rebellion at Hostmonster.com is still out of condition, the victim of a “denial of service” attack. The server hosted multiple websites, so there is no evidence that Bacon’s Rebellion was the target of the attack.

It has been nearly a week now but Hostmonster still has not resolved the issue. One technician told me that he has rarely seen it take so long to fix a problem like this. It should not be long, however. Once I can access all my files, I can work toward restoring the blog’s full content and functionality.

In the meantime, if you miss participating in Bacon’s Rebellion as much as loyal reader (and frequent comment contributor) Allen Barringer, follow his directions on how to gain full access:

Thanks to Jim Bacon’s problems with his blog hosting service, lots of us are having difficulty signing on to Bacon’s Rebellion. If you try to log in in the usual way with your BR user name and password (or if you have set up your computer to log you in to BR automatically) it will fail — you will get an error message that says you have an invalid password, and also that you have tried too many times to login.  Neither is true; this is an error from BR’s former blog hosting service. There is an alternative: look again at that log-in screen and you will see that it says: “Log in with WordPress.com /or/ Login with username and password.” The first alternative, “Log in with WordPress,” will work, as it bypasses the old blog host and goes directly to Jim’s new website; but you must first create a WordPress account. If you do not have a WorkPress account, here is how to create one:

What is WordPress.org? This is a volunteer organization consisting of people who promote and support blogging, and write the ‘open source’ computer program that makes blogs like Bacon’s Rebellion possible. Most blogs use the free WordPress software, and many blog readers sign on through WordPress because that signs them on simultaneously to all the WordPress-based blogs they subscribe to, or “follow.” By creating a WordPress account you incur no obligation to WordPress;  however, you will be able to sign in to any WordPress-based blog (including BR) through your WordPress account, and also, if you have an interest in blogging, you will be able to read and participate in any WordPress discussion forums.

To create a WordPress account, click on this link: https://login.wordpress.org. A login form will appear. At the bottom right, click on “Create an account” and the “Registration” screen will appear. Choose a Username and fill in your email address — you can skip all the other blanks — except, click on the blank next to “I am not a robot”; and then click on “Register.” Now, WordPress.org will send you an email with a temporary password.  Get the temporary password and sign in.   Your account at WordPress.org simultaneously exists at WordPress.com, with the same username and password. Continue reading

Making Progress

Got email restored to my PC — not my laptop or tablet, but I’ll worry about them later. Apparently, my Outlook 2010 is too old. I’ll have to upgrade to the new subscriber-based Outlook. Anyway, the email setup process is so complex that I never could have gotten as far as I have without extensive help from the Godaddy help desk. I would refer back to my essay on how overly complex our society is getting… but of course, I still can’t access my old blog!

Enough with my problems… Any email you sent me since Friday morning is either trapped in Hostmonster denial-of-service-attack hell or has bounced back to you. But if you email me now, I should receive it. Of course, I’ll have to go out of town shortly to take care of an elderly parent. When it rains it pours!

— JAB

Bacon’s Rebellion — Down but Not Out

crash

The Bacon’s Rebellion blog and email account crashed Friday morning, and I’m working on getting them back in working order. According to my web host, Hostmonster, the server where the blog resides is “under attack” by unknown parties, and no one is sure when they can solve the problem. Because Hostmonster was so unresponsive and unhelpful, I am setting up a temporary, jury-rigged blog over on Godaddy.

To quote the immortal words of Chumbawamba, “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down.”

— JAB

CURA’d Bacon

CURA_logo

Bacon’s Rebellion is pleased to announce a partnership with the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis at Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.

CURA conducts research on housing, poverty, economic development and other topics relating to the prosperity, livability and sustainability of Virginia communities — the same topics that animate Bacon’s Rebellion… but with an academically respectable perspective!

The partnership is simple: CURA conducts research and publishes reports, and Bacon’s Rebellion posts the content to its blog. CURA is happy to share its research. Bacon’s Rebellion is delighted to provide visibility for CURA’s analysis and stimulate discussion of important issues.

Find out more information on the [email protected] button on the navigation bar.

— JAB

Jim Bacon nominated for Nobel Prize

Boomergeddon CoverStockholm Syndrome – In dramatic news the Nobel Foundation today announced that James A. Bacon has been nominated for the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his groundbreaking economic work – Boomergeddon.  Nobel spokesman Lars E Faire said, “Of course we nominated Bacon – just putting a picture of a detonated atomic bomb on the cover of a cult economics book all but guaranteed a nomination.  Most authors use graphs or currency symbols.  Bacon uses nuclear annihilation”

The Bacon School –  Bacon could not be reached for comment.  His publicist claimed that he was busy getting small somewhere in South Carolina.  Inquiries were referred to Bacon’s spokesman Lawrence Gee.  Gee explained the Bacon school of economic thinking.  “Baconomics is not trickle down.  Rather, it’s drizzle sideways.  City governments which genuflect to private enterprise invariably become techno-modal innovation hubs.  The private enterprise focus of these cities causes them to avoid building roads, bus lines, subways or any other form of transportation infrastructure.  So, people walk.  These are walkable cities,”  Gee said with the conspiratorial nod of a man revealing a deep secret.

“Walkable areas force people into close proximity where good ideas flourish and capital can be raised by passing the hat without any government interference or regulation,” Gee said.  “The cheek to jowl conditions in the walkable city not only lead to effortless capital formation but also attract new entrepreneurs from distant cities which waste their money on roads, police and schools.  They make sure the walkable city is well supplied with essentials like meat pies and craft brewed beer.  This is the drizzle sideways effect.”

Competition beware –  Bacon will face stiff competition for the Nobel prize. Other nominees include Peter Galuszka who recently published a research paper linking all past, present and future economic issues to George W. Bush and Dr. T.M. Taxes who mathematically demonstrated that the Matrix is not only real but being operated by Northern Virginia land developers.

On the Road Again…

It is spring vacation, which means the Bacon family is on the move. I’ll be reporting in this week from one of the country’s great historic walkable and historic cities.

– JAB

Citizens Take on Crony Capitalism in VA Beach

cavalierby James A. Bacon

Arlington County had its $1 million bus stop scandal. The City of Richmond had its mayoral cronyism scandal. Now Virginia Beach has its Cavalier Hotel redevelopment scandal. The FBI has undertaken a criminal investigation of a vote by Councilman John Uhrin in favor of providing $18 million in city funds to subsidize redevelopment of the landmark Cavalier Hotel. Days later, his wife Catherine Sassone was hired to sell luxury properties associated with the project. Uhrin has said he did not know when he voted that his wife would be hired.

I have no idea if Uhrin is guilty of anything — I have not followed the controversy closely enough to have an informed opinion — but I do admire how Virginia Beach residents residents are responding to the revelations. A group of about 25 citizens who believe “the taxpayers of Virginia Beach have been pushed aside for too long” have banded together to dredge up public records, publish them online and expose the crony capitalism at the heart of Virginia Beach government. The result is The Document Project:

When City Councilor John Uhrin arrived at City Hall on July 2, 2013, he did much more than just vote to give Cavalier Associates, LLC, the largest upfront taxpayer incentive in the city’s history. Uhrin’s vote unintentionally opened a window into the inner workings, backroom negotiations and financial wrangling that for a decade has become the shameful signature of Virginia Beach government.

And it’s all published here, for the first time. Courtesy of a federal subpoena, the FBI and Virginia’s weak, but still sufficient, public records laws.

Among the accusations:

  • Mayor Will Sessoms and former City Manager Jim Spore scheduled Cavalier meetings at the developer’s headquarters even after the mayor recused himself from voting because he had a conflict of interest.
  • A firm run by a member of the Cavalier Task Force, an independent body formed to protect the city’s interests, was working for the Cavalier developers without telling the public of his dual roles.
  • A city engineer describing a 968-foot roadway to be built with $2.5 million in public funds said the cost was so inflated that the developer could use “gold-leaf pavers” and still build the road for less.
  • During negotiations on city incentives, the city’s point man for the project, Barry Frankenfield, asked the developer if he might entertain a “pitch” from his son’s firm. Two months later Frankenfield wrote e-mails stating that the city could “edit out” and “tone down” critical comments made by its own engineers that questioned safety and financial aspects of the development.
  • The Cavalier’s developers applied for a tax break under the state’s GAP financing program. State regulations require all financing to be in place before approval. The developers did not have the financing in place when they applied, and in fact didn’t receive its $77 million loan from TowneBank until February 2016.

I have not examined the substance of the allegations. What I find encouraging, though, is the way citizens have taken matters in their own hands and done the hard work of sifting through a large body of public records to expose questionable ways of doing business.

Why is Hampton Roads among the worst for economic growth in the entire state of Virginia, when we have so much more to offer? Because we’ve long ago traded capitalism for cronyism. …

This website is here because the taxpayers of Virginia Beach have been pushed aside for too long as the same few developers and our elected officials make deals behind closed doors while saying, “trust us.”

Well, those days are over. And with Light Rail, the 15th Street Pier, the 27th Street boondoggle and so many more projects on the horizon, we’re just getting started.

Bravo. Virginia is sliding into a cesspool of corruption. The media is a largely defanged watchdog lacking the resources to conduct the investigative journalism that once was its hallmark. Citizens must take matters into their own hands.