Chronicle’s chronic losses lead to major cuts at the Bay Area’s largest newspaper — papers coast-to-coast cutting staff

The San Francisco Chronicle ready for some major “right sizing.”

After some more streamlining in addition to a new printing process off site, the largest newspaper in Northern California should begin to be profitable again.  

In a posted statement, Hearst said if the savings cannot be accomplished “quickly” the company will seek a buyer, and if none comes forward, it will close the Chronicle. The Chronicle lost more than $50 million in 2008 and is on a pace to lose more than that this year, Hearst said.

Frank J. Vega, chairman and publisher of the Chronicle, said, “It’s just a fact of life that we need to live within our means as a newspaper – and we have not for years.”

Vega said plans remain on track for the June 29 transition to new presses owned and operated by Canadian-based Transcontinental Inc., which will give the Chronicle industry-leading color reproduction. That move will save a few million annually due to the reduction of highly paid pressmen.

If the reductions can be accomplished, Vega said, “We are optimistic that we can emerge from this tough cycle with a healthy and vibrant Chronicle.”

The company did not specify the size of the staff reductions or the nature of the other cost-savings measures it has in mind. The company said it will immediately seek discussions with the Northern California Media Workers Guild, Local 39521, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 853, which represent the majority of workers at the Chronicle.

“Because of the sea change newspapers everywhere are undergoing and these dire economic times, it is essential that our management and the local union leadership work together to implement the changes necessary to bring the cost of producing the Chronicle into line with available revenue,” Frank A. Bennack, Jr., Hearst vice chairman and chief executive, and Steven R. Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers, said in a joint statement.

From the Newsosaur:

SF Chron cost-cut target equals 47% of staff

If the San Francisco Chronicle had to slash enough payroll to offset the more than $50 million operating loss threatening its future, nearly half of its 1,500 employees would be dismissed.

That’s the magnitude of the challenge facing the managers and union representatives who were tasked today by Hearst Corp. to find a way to cut the paper’s mushrooming deficit – or else.

After losing more than $1 billion without seeing a dime of profit since purchasing the paper in 2000, the Hearst Corp. today threatened to sell or close the Chronicle if sufficient savings were not identified to staunch operating losses surpassing $1 million a week. Without significant cost reductions, the losses would accelerate this year as a result of the ailing economy, said Michael Keith, a spokesman for the paper.

To wipe out a $50 million loss, let alone make a profit, the paper would have to eliminate 47% of its entire staff

Meanwhile, on the East Coast:

The latest Hartford Courant (former Times-Mirror newspaper) layoffs were announced last night – political reporter Mark Pazniokas is among those cut from the newspaper. We’ve been told these names as well – please correct us if we have anything wrong: Jesse Hamilton of the Washington bureau,  Religion Reporter Elizabeth Hamilton, Business Reporter Robin Stansbury, Environment Reporter David Funkhouser, reporters  Steve Grant and Anna Marie Somma, sportswriter Matt Eagan,  itowns editor Loretta Waldman, itowns reporter Nancy Lastrina, administrative assistant Judy Prato, Marge Ruschau, Features copy editors Adele Angle and David Wakefield, and library staffer & researcher Owen Walker.

We’re told that editor/reporter Kate Farrish resigned earlier this week as did editor John Ferraro.

Denis Horgan is calling it the Mardi Gras Massacre.

Paul Bass has more in the New Haven Independent.

Now, back to Texas:

Memo from San Antonio Express-News’ editor

From: Rivard, Robert
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 10:44 AM
To: SAEN Editorial
Subject: We are canceling this morning’s news meeting for obvious reasons.

Colleagues:

By now you have read Tom Stephenson’s message to all employees. Every division of the Express-News will be affected, including every department in the newsroom. Incremental staff and budget cuts, we are sorry to say, have proven inadequate amid changing social and market forces now compounded by this deepening recession.

It is not lost on us as journalists in this difficult moment that we have built an audience of readers, in print and online, that is larger and more diverse than at any time in our century and half of publishing. We have done that at the Express-News through a commitment to excellence and public service. Now we must find ways to maintain these high levels of journalistic distinction even as valued colleagues depart. It is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that declining advertising revenues are insufficient to support our operations at current levels. At the same time, more and more people have become accustomed to reading us at no cost on the Internet. As a result, we are reducing the newsroom staff by some 75 positions, counting layoffs and open positions we are eliminating.

As a first step to securing our future and continuing to serve the community, we are undergoing a fundamental and painful restructuring of the newsroom staff. We will have fewer departments and fewer managers, and yes, fewer of every class of journalist. After we reorganize and consolidate additional operations with the Houston Chronicle, we will then turn to finding new ways to create and present the journalism we know is vital to the city and the region. There is every indication the community we serve recognizes our importance and wants the Express-News to succeed.

The newsroom leadership team will begin now to meet with individuals whose jobs are being eliminated. Brett Thacker and I are working with these editors to carry out such notifications as swiftly and humanely as possible. No one is being asked to leave the Express-News today unless you so choose. March 20 will be the final day for those whose jobs are being cut, at which time they will then receive involuntary separation packages that include two weeks’ pay for each year of service up to one year’s pay, along with other benefits. Some production journalists involved in the consolidation project with the Houston Chronicle will be asked to stay on until that project is completed in the coming months. Those who do stay until the completion will receive their separation packages at that time.

We have worked to preserve the size and depth of our newsroom in every imaginable way these past months and years, but events beyond our control have overwhelmed those efforts. Newsrooms become like families, but companies in every industry reach a point where they face fundamental, sometimes harsh change in order to preserve their viability. We are at that point. Most of you read yesterday’s news regarding the San Francisco Chronicle and recently became aware of pending staff cuts at the Houston Chronicle. Our intention is to get through these difficult days and work to remain an indispensible source of news and information through the recession and beyond.

Hearst purchased the Chronicle in 2000, but soon afterward felt the impact of an economic downturn in the dot.com sector as well as the loss of classified advertising to Craigslist and other online sites. The problems have been exacerbated by the current recession.

In the news release, the privately-held, New York-based company said that the Chronicle has had “major losses” since 2001.

Back on the West Coast, there is no safe haven.

Sacramento Guild bracing for job cuts

Woe is us, McClatchy warns

Media Workers Guild – 12 Feb 2009

Sacramento Bee employees should expect a serious wave of layoffs in early March, as well as other cost-cutting measures now being considered, including wage cuts and mandatory furloughs as McClatchy Newspapers’ financial crisis worsens, company representatives told the Guild’s bargaining committee in a 90-minute session Thursday.

Mercury Bargaining Bulletin 9

 

Mercury News wants $1.5 million cut from wages and benefits

 

California Media Workers Guild – 10 Feb 2009

Mercury News negotiators said Tuesday they need to find $1.5 million by cutting wages and benefits paid to Guild members annually in the face of the economic woes facing the company. The company’s announcement came at a bargaining session Tuesday that kicked off an effort by management and the Guild to expedite the process of reaching a new contract to replace the one that expired October 31.

“Given the losses the Chronicle continues to sustain, the time to implement these changes cannot be long. These changes are designed to give the Chronicle the best possible chance to survive this economic downturn and continue to serve the people of the Bay Area with distinction, as it has since 1865,” Bennack and Swartz said in their statement.

“Survival is the outcome we all want to achieve,” they added. “But without specific changes we are seeking across the entire Chronicle organization, we will have no choice but to quickly seek a buyer for the Chronicle, and, should a buyer not be found, to shut down the newspaper.”

The Hearst statement further said that cost reductions are part of a broader effort to restore the Chronicle to financial health. At the beginning of the year, the Chronicle raised its prices for home delivery and single-copy purchases.

Hearst owns 15 other newspapers including the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio News-Express and the Albany Times-Union in New York . Hearst announced Jan. 9 that in March that if a buyer is not found it will close Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which has lost money since 2000.

Vega said readers and advertisers will see no difference in the Chronicle during the discussions with the unions.

“Even with the reduction in workforce, our goal will be to retain our essential and well-read content,” Vega said. “We will continue to produce the very best newspaper for our readers and preserve one of San Francisco ‘s oldest and most important institutions.”

The Chronicle, the Bay Area’s largest and oldest newspaper, is read by more than 1.6 million people weekly. It also operates SFGate, among the nation’s 10 largest news Web sites. SFGate depends on the Chronicle’s print news staff for much its content.

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to 21 daily newspapers covering an 11-county area.

The Chronicle’s news staff of about 275, even after a series of reductions in recent years, is the largest of any newspaper in the Bay Area.

“While the reductions are an unfortunate sign of the times, the news staff has always been resilient in San Francisco ,” said Ward Bushee, editor and executive vice president. “We remain fully dedicated toward serving our readers with an outstanding newspaper. We are playing to win.”

The area’s other leading newspapers – the Bay Area Media News Group that includes the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune – also have seen revenues decline sharply and cut staff.

These problems are a reflection of those faced by newspapers across America as they experience fundamental changes in their business model brought on by rapid growth in readership on free internet sites, a decline in paid circulation, the erosion of advertising and rising costs.

Advertising traditionally has offset the cost of producing and delivering a newspaper, which allowed publishers to charge readers substantially less than the actual cost of doing business. The loss of advertising has undermined that pricing model.

In the case of the Chronicle, Vega said the expense of producing and delivering the newspaper to a seven-day subscriber is more than double the $7.75 weekly cost to subscribe.

At the beginning of the year, in an effort to evolve its business model and offset its substantial losses, the Chronicle raised its subscription and newsstand prices, taking a cue from European papers that charge far more than their American counterparts.

“We know that people in this community care deeply about the Chronicle,” Vega said. “In today’s world, the Chronicle is still very inexpensive. This is a critical time and we deeply hope our readers will stick with us.”

The challenge the Chronicle faces, Vega said, is to bring its revenues from advertising and circulation into balance with its expenses so that the newspaper can at least break even financially.

“We are asking our unions to work with us as partners in making these difficult cost-cutting decisions and reduction in force to ensure the newspaper survives,” Vega said.

Michael Savage will have some candid comments on the layoffs. What about the content of the Chronicle’s “news?”

The union reps “negotiate” their fate:

Cost-Cutting Talks Begin – 

Guild leaders met with representatives from The Chronicle and Hearst Corp. this morning to discuss the company’s cost-cutting proposal.

We opened the meeting by underscoring our commitment to our membership and the community to do all we can to reach an agreement that will keep The Chronicle open and return it to profitability.

The company seeks a combination of wide-ranging contractual concessions in addition to layoffs, the exact number of which the company said it did not yet have. For Guild-covered positions, the company did say the job cuts would at least number 50. Other proposals include removal of some advertising sales people from Guild coverage and protection, the right to outsource — specifically mentioning Ad Production — voluntary buyouts, layoffs and wage freezes. 

We plan to closely analyze this proposal over the next few days and explore every possible alternative. Meetings will be held to discuss details with members of the bargaining unit. An informational membership meeting will be held from 5-7 p.m.tonight (Tuesday Feb. 25) at the Guild office, 3rd floor conference room.

Management reiterated its commitment to keeping The Chronicle open and to working with the Guild to secure a viable future. Despite the difficult economic environment, we are confident that by working together we can find solutions to any problems that confront us.

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact your shop steward or e-mail Unit Chair Michelle Devera, Local President Mike Cabanatuan or Unit Secretary Alissa Van Cleave.

In solidarity,

Michelle Devera, Chronicle Unit chair, michelleatsfchronunit@gmail.com
Michael Cabanatuan, Local President, ctuan@aol.com
Alissa Van Cleave, Chronicle Unit secretary, vancelave44@hotmail.com
Wally Greenwell, Chronicle Unit vice chair
Gloria La Riva, president, Typographical Sector
Carl Hall, Local Representative

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Davos annual financial summit — It’s time to show stockholders and taxpayers what the big shots do with our money–Gov. Paterson pulls out of his ski trip to Europe

Davos divaJust last year at the annual gathering of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the CEO of Lehman Brothers held court on the state of the global economy before lucky big league journalists and quiet subordinates while other Wall Street stars mingled after-hours with the likes of Claudia Schiffer, the supermodel, Bono of U2, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Pinch Sulzberger of the New York Times empire always attended. Did he get an invite this year? Why would he? 

IT ALL STARTS TUESDAY. Better shape up for those ski pants. 

But the politicians go on our dimes. New York Governor Paterson will fly off to a “junket” in a swank Swiss town this week, escaping from New York just days after his disastrous effort to chose Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Senate replacement, The New York Post has learned.

UPDATE: A beleaguered Gov. Paterson pulled out of his Switzerland trip Monday as a new poll shows his once-huge lead over Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has virtually disappeared.

Paterson was planning to leave Thursday to attend and speak at theWorld Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, but said this morning he decided to stay to concentrate on the state budget.

With all the wealthy Democrats in DC to help Obama make the USA a socialist state, the big spenders are not showing up in Davos this year. They may be in hiding. 

As business, government and even nonprofit leaders jet set into the ski mecca, the cameras may be blocked from some of the parties this time. It would not be good PR to let the “journalists” into the five star restarants this time around. 

And with much of the financial system in the UK, EU and the USA edging toward a possible socialist takeover, the 2009 agenda at Davos, “Shaping the Post-Crisis World,” has taken the limelight over  global warming and globalization.

“The pendulum has swung and power has moved back to governments,” said Klaus Schwab, the German-born economics professor who founded the World Economic Forum in 1971 and has been its impresario ever since. “This is the biggest economic crisis since Davos began.”

Davos will draw approximately the same amount of participants (2,500) – but the cavier and celebrity-filled parties are going to be hidden from view. There  will be many fewer members of the Bogner-ski suit set strutting down the resort’s snowy streets with their Rosignol skis in tow. Will Getty and his boy Gavin Newsom be there? 

 

Davos has become so early 2000s and so Euro-centric. “Let’s stay longer at Sundance!”

The greatest economic challenge of our lifetimes is not now, it was 25 years ago under Jimmy Carter — Get ready for the Obama Drama Ding Dongs

In his first news conference since Election Day, President-elect Barack Obama said the United States is ”facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetimes.”

“Obama Drama Ding Dong.” (Let’s see if that phrase catches on). For the next four years we are going to read and hear about crisis after challenge for Obama Drama Ding Dongs. (Inspired by the “Animal House” nightclub scene.)

And the “free press” in America fails to report that Jimmy Carter’s presidency was on an economic disaster with mortgage interest rates of 19 to 21 percent, gas lines, unemployment of over 8.5 percent and the highest tax rates ever seen in the United States since LBJ’s Great Society.

Today’s media is a propaganda machine for the Democratic party. This week the Washington Post in an editorial admitted they had an overwhelming bias to get Obma elected. Woopsie. But the LA Times was even worse. The editors there kept a tape of a toast to a Jew hater named Khalid.

We will see the tape eventually. But will it have been edited? What do you think?

There is no comparative, investigative reporting. Watch America transform into an Eastern European socialist nation with no future and the middle class transformed into a lower-class, mediocre society ruled by the rich, elite class.

Why didn’t Al Gore speak in prime time at the DNC convention?

Funny? I thought Albert Gore was the guru of USA caused global warming? WTF?

Wasn’t that the mandate of the Democrat party when the war in Iraq calmed down? Why hasn’t Gore been on air as much as the Clinton machine? Didn’t liberals state that Al Gore was going to introduce Obama tonight? Oh sure, if you were staying home on “disability,” then you got to see Gore.

Maybe this is why:

Al “Unabomber” Gore Wacko environmental extremist

Al Gore wrote the book Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, which is the wacko socialist manifesto to regulate everything based on junk science. He parroted the extremist EARTH FIRSTers terrorist party line with a straight face. It is probably the most ignorant book ever written about the environment. In it he wrote the scary totalitarian prescription “we must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization.”

The following are highlights from a 1992 Democratic National Committee (DNC) memo by Jonathan Sallet to the Clinton-Gore campaign that highlighted Gore vulnerabilities from his extremist manifestoEarth in the Balance. The memo was obtained by the Wall Street Journal, which published it in August of 1992. Among the DNC’s findings:

  • Al is a radical environmentalist who wants to change the very fabric of America.”
  • “He (Gore) criticizes America for being America — a place where people enjoy the benefits of an advanced standard of living.”
  • “He (Gore) has no sense of proportion: He equates the failure to recycle aluminum cans with the Holocaust.”
  • “He (Gore) believes that our civilization, itself, is evil (because it is, in his words, ‘addicted to the consumption of the earth.’)”

Recently Gore was asked by Gannett News if his opinions have changed since writing Earth in the Balance. Gore said:

“There is not a single passage in that book that I disagree with or would change.”

(Gannett News Service, 3/23/99)

Gore called the internal combustion engine the greatest enemy of mankind, see –

Al Gore vs. the Automobile

Gore wrote in EARTH IN THE BALANCE pp 325-326, “It ought to be possible to establish a coordinated global program to accomplish the strategic goal of completely eliminating the internal combustion engine (by government fiat) over, say, a 25 year period.” “I wrote in this book Earth in the Balance that we should set as a strategic goal the phasing out of the internal-combustion engine over a 25-year period. I accept now that was a mistake. Twenty-five years is far too long for a goal like that. I think we can do it quicker.” (Ramesh Ponnuru, “The Attack Man,” National Review, February 21, 2000)

GORE ON GAS

PAUL EHRLICH’S BOOK, ON GAS PRICES: “The United States could start by gradually imposing a higher gasoline tax-hiking it by one or two cents per month until gasoline costs $2.50 to $3.00 per gallon, comparable to prices in Europe and Japan.” (Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich, The Population Explosion, 1990, pp. 219-220) On the dustcover of the book, Gore said, “The time for action is due, and past due. Ehrlich has written the prescription.” “Higher taxes on fossil fuels. . . is one of the logical first steps in changing our policies in a manner consistent with a more responsible approach to the environment.” (Al Gore, Earth in the Balance, 1993, p. 173)

Al Gore Supported Plans For Even Higher Gas Prices By Endorsing The Kyoto Protocol. At the 1997 Kyoto Conference, Al Gore committed to reducing United States carbon emissions to less than 1990 levels by 2012. Key to discharging Al Gore’s promises at Kyoto is a carbon tax which experts have concluded will raise gas prices by 65 cents a gallon and reduce average household income by nearly $2700 even as the cost of goods and services rise in response to higher taxes. (“Global Warming: The High Cost of the Kyoto Protocol,” WEFA, Inc., 1998, p. 1) Al Gore Cast The Tie-Breaking Vote To Increase The Gas Tax By 4.3 Cents A Gallon. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, a $241 billion tax increase proposed by the Clinton/Gore Administration, passed on August 6, 1993 on the tie-breaking vote cast by Gore. Included in the bill was a 4.3 cent per gallon gas tax increase. Gore was also its leading advocate in the Administration according to author Bob Woodward: “The meeting quickly turned to the gasoline tax. Vice President Gore, a strong environmentalist who advocated energy taxes as a way to reduce pollution, argued that the tax should be retained. President Clinton could be attacked on character if he dropped the gasoline tax now, Gore said emphatically and emotionally.” (Bob Woodward, “The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House, Part 3 of 4,” The Washington Post, June 7, 1994) Al Gore Was The Chief Advocate Of The Proposed 1993 BTU Tax, Which Would Have Raised Gas Prices By Six Percent. According to George Stephanopoulos, “Gore was the chief advocate of the energy tax, arguing that it was good for both the economy and the environment.” (George Stephanopoulos, All Too Human: A Political Education, 1999, p. 206) Al Gore Has Been A “Driving Force” Behind The Increased Regulation Of Gasoline, Which Has Resulted In An Increase In Gas Prices. Al Gore has been a “driving force” behind the stricter regulation of gasoline, which has “pushed up production prices and created a patchwork of contradictory gasoline formulas in various parts of the country.” (Bill Sammon, “Gore’s Strategy Is To Vilify Oil Firms,” The Washington Times, June 22, 2000) A recent study by the bipartisan Congressional Research Service cited these factors as contributing to the massive increase in gas prices in the Midwest. (Lawrence Kumins, “Midwest Gasoline Price Increases,” Congressional Research Service, June 16, 2000)

GoreUnabomber sketch

Who said it ...
The Unabomber or Algore?


The 10 excerpts below are taken from Algore’s extremist book Earth in the Balance, or from the Unabomber’s (FC’s) Manifesto. You get to try your skill at determining who said which quote. Some are easier than others.



1. “In the speech in which I declared my candidacy, I focused on global warming, ozone depletion and the ailing global environment and declared that these issues – along with nuclear arms control – would be the principal focus of my campaign.”

Unabomber
Algore

2. “No one knows what will happen as a result of ozone depletion, the greenhouse effect and other environmental problems that cannot yet be foreseen. And, as nuclear proliferation has shown, new technology cannot be kept out of the hands of dictators and irresponsible Third World leaders.”

Unabomber
Algore

3. “Artificial needs have been created. … Advertising and marketing techniques have been developed that make many people feel they need things that their grandparents never desired or even dreamed of. … It seems for many people, maybe the majority, these artificial forms … are insufficient. A theme that appears repeatedly in the writings of the social critics of the second half of the 20th century is the sense of purposelessness that afflicts many people in modern society.”

Unabomber
Algore

4. “Whenever any technology is used to mediate our experience of the world, we gain power but we also lose something in the process. The increased productivity of assembly lines in factories, for examples, requires many employees to repeat the identical task over and over until they lose any feeling of connection to the creative process – and with it their sense of purpose.”

Unabomber
Algore

5. “Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, who learned how to command inanimate objects to serve his whims, we too have set in motion forces more powerful than we anticipated and that are harder to stop than start.”

Unabomber
Algore

6. “Technological progress marches in only one direction. It can never be reversed. Once a technological innovation has been introduced, people usually become dependent on it, so that they can never again do without it, unless it is replaced by some still more advanced innovation.”

Unabomber
Algore

7. “‘Oh,’ say the technophiles, ‘Science is going to fix all that!’ We will conquer famine, eliminate psychological suffering, make everybody healthy and happy!”

Unabomber
Algore

8. “Some argue that a new ultimate technology, whether nuclear energy or genetic engineering, will solve the problem. … We have also fallen victim to a kind of technological hubris, which tempts us to believe that our new powers may be unlimited. We dare to imagine that we will find technological solutions for every technologically induced problem. … Technological hubris tempts us to lose sight of our place in the natural order and believe that we can achieve whatever we want.”

Unabomber
Algore

9. “Very widespread in modern society is the search for ‘fulfillment.’ … (Yet) for the majority of people whose main goal is fulfillment, (technology) does not bring completely satisfactory fulfillment.”

Unabomber
Algore

10. “Industrial civilization’s great engines of distraction still seduce us with a promise of fulfillment. Our new power to work our will upon the world can bring with it a sudden rush of exhilaration. … But that exhilaration is fleeting. It is not true fulfillment.”

Unabomber
Algore

ANSWERS: Gore said 1,4,5,8, and 10

Source: Geocities.com

Don’t believe it? Google it!

McCain should pick Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska for VP

This post was published on Aug 25, 2008 

There is talk that Sen. John McCain will take more air out of the Democrat Convention by announcing his VP on Thursday. Good plan. Now, make it Sarah Palin and he will get some of Hillary’s disenfranchised voters. Palin has it all, good looks right out of central casting, intelligent speaker, family values and governor of Alaska.

She has positive energy and wit. She will be able to out debate Biden and show that the Republicans trust a women for high office.

Visit http://palinforvp.blogspot.com/

Drill here, drill now!

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

The kings of oil increasing production to 10 million barrels a day

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, is planning to increase its output next month by about a half-million barrels of oil a day of its light, sweet crude oil, according to analysts and oil traders who have been informed by Saudi officials. This announcement alone, plus the Republican party political movement called “Drill Here — Drill Now!” is making it into the media. 

The increase could bring Saudi output to a production level of 10 million barrels a day, which, if sustained, would be the kingdom’s highest performance level in history. The move was seen as a sign that the Saudis are becoming increasingly nervous about both the political and economic effect of high oil prices. In recent weeks, soaring fuel costs have incited demonstrations and protests from Italy to Indonesia.

Saudi Arabia is currently pumping 9.45 million barrels a day, which is an increase of about 300,000 barrels from last month.

The Saudis are concerned that today’s record prices might eventually damp economic growth and lead to lower oil demand, as is already happening in the United States and other developed countries. The current prices are also making alternative fuels more viable, threatening the long-term prospects of the oil-based economy. The high prices have also made it profitable to stimulate mature oil wells in Texas and California. 

President Bush visited Saudi Arabia twice this year, pleading with King Abdullah to step up production. While the Saudis resisted the calls then, arguing that the markets were well supplied, they seem to have since concluded that they needed to disrupt the momentum that has been building in commodity markets, sending prices higher. That creates panic. There seems to be no end in sight. 

The Saudi plans were disclosed in interviews with several oil traders and analysts who said that Saudi oil officials had privately conveyed their production plans recently to some traders and companies in the United States. The analysts declined to be identified so as not to be cut off from future information from the Saudis.

Last week, King Abdullah also took the unprecedented step of arranging on short notice a major gathering of oil producers and consumers to address the causes of the price rally. The meeting will be held on June 22 in the Red Sea town of Jeddah.

Oil prices have gained 40 percent this year, rising to nearly $140 a barrel in recent days and driving gasoline costs above $4 a gallon. Some analysts have predicted that prices could reach $200 a barrel this year as oil consumption continues to rise rapidly while supplies lag.

The growing volatility of the markets, including a record one-day gain of $10.75 a barrel last week, has persuaded the Saudis that they need to step in, analysts said. The Saudis and Republicans are the only groups trying to lower the price of crude. But you won’t read that in your mainstream newspaper on watch it on NBC. 

Did you know…

Until recently, only 35 percent of oil has been extracted from reservoirs. Oil resides in porous rock formations, it is not in the sate of underground pools as many consumers believe. Today, oil companies such as Chevron, Shell,  Halliburton and Schlumberger, have developed stimulation methods to revive mature wells. There are fracturing and perforating techniques, 3-D seismic methods to clearly see trapped reservers that have been missed by the original well. There are now, steerable drill bits that can capture those trapped oil reserves and pinpoint stimulation on targeted areas. 

–Mick Gregory

While at the Getty home in Pacific Heights (San Francisco), Obama calls small-town whites, Bible thumpers, gun-loving bigots

By Mick Gregory

Here is why I’ve created this blog on citizen journalism: to expose the cozy relationship between the mass media and Democrat political machine, and let you into the mansions and “elegantly casual” settings. Here is a prime example. Who, what, where and why? The basic questions a reporter asks are often glossed over to protect the politician.

Sen. Obama, while speaking at the Getty’s private mansion in Pacific Heights, San Francisco, the richest enclave of society in America, condemns small-town, lower middle class whites in suburban America for their belief in God, Second Amendment rights and being bigots and idiots. Let me tell you a little bit about Getty. He bought the mansion next door to his to garage his 12 luxury sports cars.

No talk of a carbon footprint among friends. Did Sean Penn attend the gathering? I’d like to know, because his movie “into the Wild” (a very good movie and book) is about a rich kid who graduated from Emory University and was accepted to Harvard Law School, but instead he burns and gives away $20,000 and goes off to live off the land.

Penn is also a big supporter of Hugo Chavez, who is a de-facto dictator of Venezuela and is one of the key OPEC members behind the recent spike of oil.

Here is the report on the citizen journalist from the Huffington Post who attended the “gala.”
Ms. Fowler, who graduated from Vassar in 1968 and had dabbled in writing, became a “citizen journalist” last summer when the Huffington Post started “OffTheBus.net,” a new venture that has now expanded to a network of about 1,800 unpaid writers and researchers. I wrote about O.T.B. in October, by which time editors at the Huffington Post had already identified Ms. Fowler as one of O.T.B.’s “emerging star correspondents.”

Ms. Fowler has spent a lot of time (and her own money) following the presidential campaign– and participating in it. She has maxed out at $2,300 to Mr. Obama, starting in increments last fall. She said she has also given money ($100) to Mrs. Clinton, because she is roughly Mrs. Clinton’s age and liked the idea of a woman president and she attended two Clinton fund-raisers with her sister, a devoted Clinton supporter. And she also gave $500 to Fred Thompson, of Tennessee, even though he is a Republican, because that’s where she is from and her family has been steeped in Tennessee politics since the 1790s (that’s not a typo).

As a supporter who had made donations, Ms. Fowler had been invited before to Obama fund-raisers — and written about them on O.T.B. After the Ohio and Texas primaries, she was back home in the Bay Area and heard that Mr. Obama would be holding four fund-raisers there on April 6. She had not been invited but asked a friend if she could go. She was put on the list for the last of four events, this one at a mansion in Pacific Heights.

There’s a bit of a brush fire in California about how Ms. Fowler got in, and Ms. Fowler is protecting the person who secured her a ticket. That person has since called her and said that fund-raisers are always off the record.

“This was never conveyed to me,” Ms. Fowler said. “I was invited to the event, I had written on fund-raisers in the past, why wouldn’t I this time?” She said the Obama campaign had never objected before to her having written about fund-raisers (though admittedly, nothing much of interest had happened). And the invitations said nothing about being closed to the press. Besides, she said, several guests brought people and children and who had not been invited.

Please write me if you see this reported in the San Francisco Chronicle or New York Times.

Did you read that Jimmy Carter is going to meet with Hamas leaders, a group of terrorists headed by Khaled Meshal. A group that killed hundreds of Americans and thousands of their own people and Jews in a blood-thirsty drive to wipe out Israel and Christians in the Middle East?

Did you know that Carter already met with Hamas a year ago?

It should be front page news today. It’s not any different than if FDR had gone on a trip to visit with Hitler and his inner circle in 1942.

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