Current Southern California newspapers could combine to form one super-regional operation.
  • Current Southern California newspapers could combine to form one super-regional operation.
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Platinum Equity, financial swingers from Beverly Hills, bought the Union-Tribune in March of 2009 for a song. Now San Diegans wonder if that song is “A Cottage for Sale.”

On July 11 of this year, the U-T reported that Platinum had hired investment banking firm Evercore Partners to “help evaluate strategic alternatives.” Nine times out of ten, such an announcement is the equivalent of hanging out a “For Sale” shingle. That would be particularly true of a private equity firm such as Platinum. Such outfits buy assets to sell them. Platinum’s philosophy is to buy mixed-breed pooches and sell them as Thoroughbred racehorses. Its normal holding period is three to five years.

On July 16, a maudlin missive was printed in the U-T under the name of publisher Ed Moss. He promised that the newspaper would be doing great things for San Diego and then stated, “Our commitment to the San Diego region is steadfast…San Diego County is our home.”

Huh? Such a statement can be read several ways, but it would suggest that the newspaper — if not Platinum — is remaining in San Diego. (Of course, liar’s poker is a favorite game among investment bankers, so possibly very little should be read into Moss’s so-called commitment.)

However, I do think it is possible that Platinum and the U-T will remain. It’s plausible that media moguls are huddling to combine papers in Southern California. The U-T, Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, Riverside Press-Enterprise, and papers belonging to the MediaNews Group could combine into one operation — although it’s not likely that they all would join in.

The papers would probably be printed in one or two locations. There might be a central copydesk. Certain stories would run in every paper. Accounting, circulation, and sales functions could be integrated. Employment would be slashed.

But where would the money come from? Freedom Communications, parent of the Orange County Register, emerged from bankruptcy last year and is trying to sell its 100 papers, including 27 dailies, along with 8 television stations. Tom Gores, head of Platinum, and his brother Alec Gores, also an investment banker, are said to have bid together for part of Freedom. (Platinum won’t address the point.) Freedom and MediaNews have been flirting off and on.

The Los Angeles Times’s parent, Chicago’s Tribune Company, is slogging through one of history’s messiest bankruptcies. It is now going through another round of layoffs. Denver’s MediaNews Group owns several Southern California papers, including the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Pasadena Star-News, Los Angeles Daily News, San Bernardino Sun, and the Torrance-based Daily Breeze (once owned by Copley Newspapers, the U-T’s former owner). MediaNews went through bankruptcy last year, giving its lenders equity in lieu of a slug of debt.

None of these companies has the financial muscle to control an agglomeration of Southern California newspapers. So Evercore’s job might be to find an investor, or more likely a combination of investors (private equity groups, hedge funds, etc.) to supply the capital for the undertaking. Possibly the effort could be coordinated among existing companies, but that’s not likely.

Or the Union-Tribune might actually be for sale. There was a rumor to that effect more than a month ago. Platinum Equity claims that it has made the newspaper profitable; cash flow (money in, money out) is supposed to be fat. However, daily circulation has plunged from 261,253 when Platinum bought it to 204,967. Given the thinness of the papers, it seems unlikely that advertising revenue has grown much, if at all, and may have declined. If the paper is in fact profitable, huge personnel cuts are almost certainly the main cause. Adoption of new technologies has probably not enhanced profitability significantly.

And private equity groups are notorious for using old technologies — such as a pencil and eraser — to make it appear that profits are blossoming, when in actuality the accounting has been changed.

Platinum paid about $50 million — and possibly as little as $30 million — for the newspaper and real estate with assessed valuations of more than $100 million. Platinum expected to dump the real estate for a quick, fat profit, but the market remains anemic.

Last year, Tom Gores told Mergers & Acquisitions magazine, and posted on the Platinum website, that the U-T under Copley was “a bit fat, so we’ve made the paper more efficient in terms of head count.” That’s a polite way to say employees were sent to the guillotine. Gores went on to say that Platinum bought the paper “at a reasonable value” and saw an opportunity to attack advertising and circulation revenue more realistically. He said it would take a big company to find a way to get readers to pay for online content.

Platinum management, while not answering the questions I posed, has said that acquisitions, partnerships, and divestitures could result from Evercore’s efforts.

Says Robert Emmers, spokesman for Freedom Communications, “A lot of observers and media experts have said there has to be some kind of consolidation for traditional media to survive. How it shakes out in Southern California is anybody’s guess.”

So Evercore may be in search of moneybags who will take this risk. That won’t be easy. In March, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism reported on last year’s state of the newspaper industry. As of 2010, newspaper advertising revenue was down 48 percent in four years. Typical newspaper profit margins last year were 5 percent — less than one quarter of what they were in the 1990s. Newspapers are surviving mainly by managing costs. The total audience for newspapers has declined sharply; papers can’t charge rates as high as they once did.

About 40 percent of Americans report they read any kind of a newspaper. That’s down from 46 percent in 2008 and 52 percent in 2006.

A month ago, pundits would say that the only media organization with the financial heft to take on Southern California papers is Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. But his shareholders don’t want him to buy any more papers, much as he loves the business. And he has other things to worry about right now — like a burgeoning phone-tapping scandal at a now-defunct paper in Britain.

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Comments

x76 Aug. 3, 2011 @ 9:01 a.m.

I often wonder if newspapers would still be viable if they had provided the level of candor found on Internet news sites. Being an eternal corporate/government mouthpiece doesn't exactly win loyal followers.

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Don Bauder Aug. 3, 2011 @ 9:39 a.m.

Good point. The U-T has long been the classic example of that affliction, and how it cramps circulation and acceptance. Best, Don Bauder

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VigilantinCV Aug. 3, 2011 @ 10:50 a.m.

Being one of a dying breed who still likes to hear the newspaper hit our driveway I have mixed feelings. I hate what the UT is today but we need a newspaper so badly.

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Don Bauder Aug. 3, 2011 @ 12:29 p.m.

San Diego needs a reliable, vigilant daily paper. It has a reliable, vigilant weekly: The Reader. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 3, 2011 @ 12:41 p.m.

Journalism and evasive, manipulative hyperbole don't mix. But "You can fool most of the people most of the time . . ." [Pardon me, Mr. Lincoln!] If that wasn't true, the UT would have been in the bottom of the bird cage long, long ago.

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Don Bauder Aug. 3, 2011 @ 2:19 p.m.

In my 30 years with the U-T, I was told that my column was the perfect cure for canary constipation. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Aug. 3, 2011 @ 1:39 p.m.

The advertising in the U-T is getting to be less all the time. Now there are full page ads appearing from these traveling grifter outfits buying gold and jewelry. It's hard to imagine that there is enough such jewelry out there to enable them to pay for a pair of full pages in the U-T, but it must pay off. (That's on top of all the radio advertising other gold and silver buyers are doing.) A few days ago, and continuing for a number of days were full page ads from some traveling outfit that was buying guitars. You'll occasionally see a full page ad from Macy's, but that's about it from the legitimate local advertisers.

I can see some sort of combination of those papers mentioned under single ownership and--unfortunately--single editorial control. If that happens and there's no real competition, we're in trouble. Whatever watchdog functions those papers now play, which doesn't seem to be very much, will shrink or vanish.

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Don Bauder Aug. 3, 2011 @ 2:26 p.m.

When gold and silver take a tumble (and it will happen eventually), those ads will disappear quickly. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 3, 2011 @ 3:53 p.m.

We had a cockatoo in those days, but I always read your column first.

But what will make gold take a tumble?

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Don Bauder Aug. 3, 2011 @ 8:42 p.m.

Eventually the precious metals will get unrealistically high and take a pratfall. I don't expect it right away, though. Adjusted for inflation, gold is still way below its past peak. Best, Don Baudeer

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valueinvestingisdead Aug. 4, 2011 @ 8:42 a.m.

The whole U.S. is headed for a Depression of a magnitude nobody will believe. It is a major house of cards and the debt coupled with all the derivatives, will crush everything. I think the DOW could see 4000-5000, housing down another 50% or more....

The system is broken....the only reason it didn't crumble already was due to the massive stimulus money coming in.

Look out below.

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 4, 2011 @ 11:43 a.m.

The whole U.S. is headed for a Depression of a magnitude nobody will believe. It is a major house of cards and the debt coupled with all the derivatives, will crush everything. I think the DOW could see 4000-5000, housing down another 50% or more....

The system is broken....the only reason it didn't crumble already was due to the massive stimulus money coming in.

Dollar bubble, debt bubble, both are goimng to burst soon, and when it does clear the decks.

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Don Bauder Aug. 5, 2011 @ 9:16 a.m.

The dollar is very weak -- deservedly so. But it could easily go down further. What keeps it up is the similar weakness in Europe. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 5, 2011 @ 9:14 a.m.

Of course, the Fed will be pushing out liquidity -- perhaps negative interest rates, certainly QElll -- to fight the outcome you anticipate. However, I am not dismissing your scenario. We lived on debt for three decades and now we are in the deleveraging process. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 5, 2011 @ 11:30 a.m.

If the Fed tries to do a QEIII then there is going to be fighting in the streets.

America is no longer going to allow runaway debt spending.

QEI and QEII did NOTHING except drive the country into DEEP DEBT-and QEIII is not going to do anything positive either.

The best predictor of future performance is PAST performance, and based on QEI and QEII you would have to be a certified MORON to go wtih a QEIII.

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 5, 2011 @ 11:31 a.m.

Don-look at the annualized GDP growth for Q1 and Q2 of 2011..... 0.4% and 1.3%, respectively.

It’s obvious what is happening in the economy from QE, it is doing NOTHING but causing BIGGER problems.

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Twister Aug. 4, 2011 @ 10:22 a.m.

"Americans (and increasingly, almost everybody else) know the price of everything and the value of nothing." --Winston Churchill (possibly "borrowed" from someone else?)

As Jim Wright once said, "We just can't go on selling pizzas to each other."

Now, we can't go on selling HOUSES to each other.

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Don Bauder Aug. 5, 2011 @ 9:19 a.m.

The San Diego economy, in particular, is a case of people doing each other's laundry. With manufacturing employment lower than the national average, we are not producing enough. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 4, 2011 @ 10:26 a.m.

To what extent do y'all think industrial demand for gold is responsible for its rise, and to what extent due to lack of confidence in the "system?"

Re: By dbauder 8:42 p.m., Aug 3, 2011

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tomjohnston Aug. 4, 2011 @ 10:56 a.m.

Buying gold is a purely speculative buy, not a security buy, despite what some people think or say.

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Don Bauder Aug. 5, 2011 @ 9:21 a.m.

If you base your opinion on industrial use of gold and silver, you have a point. Both gold and silver are being supported by fear. To that extent they are speculative buys. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 4, 2011 @ 11:44 a.m.

Monex must be doing good today, with the gold bubble.

Anyone that buys gold at todays market rate is nuts.

Gold traded for more than a decade at or around $300/oz......

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Don Bauder Aug. 5, 2011 @ 9:23 a.m.

I have never owned gold -- to my sorrow today. It doesn't pay interest (something I insist upon) and you might even have to pay for storage. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 5, 2011 @ 2:53 p.m.

To what extent is industrial demand for gold responsible for its rise, and to what extent due to fear?

I hope this makes my question more clear. I don't know where to get the data.

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Don Bauder Aug. 5, 2011 @ 9:05 p.m.

There are no data for questions like this. Such market moves are subjective. However, when a precious metal soars in price, you have to conclude that its industrial use probably stays relatively constant while the investment or speculative juices are causing the bulk of the move. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Aug. 6, 2011 @ 12:18 a.m.

Don, you explained that one of the main reasons the dollar remains as healthy as it has so far is that the EURO has similar problems.

Now, traditionally, when one currency is inflated (to pay debts with valueless paper) it is compensated by a run to another more trustworthy currency.

Yet, as you describe, the primary alternative, the EURO, is in similar condition. In fact, it seems that the quantitative easing practised by the guardians of both currencies is keeping them in a sort of miserable equilibrium.

Gold prices, and other popular commodities bets, I think are not based on industrial futures, but a direct result of folks like Glenn Beck hard selling it as a secure investment for believers in the coming apocalypse.

I'm dystopian when it comes to the next decade or so of financial ugliness we'll endure, but since I don't think Jesus will be appearing in a shaft of light to smite the unbelievers, I want a long term plan to ensure there's something for my family.

Property is still inflated (when compared to rental income), commodities are a sucker's bet, stocks and bonds...please don't expect me to believe the SEC or Treasury is interested in protecting our investments.

Hiding cash under the mattress might be safer than relying on corporate owned databases, where our alleged wealth is actually a collection of ones and zeroes. After working in IT for two decades, I don't trust software -- especially complex financial software that is connected with other massive and complex software. I know what can, and probably will go wrong, although nobody can know exactly when.

So what is left?

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Don Bauder Aug. 6, 2011 @ 7:34 a.m.

First, the dollar is not really strong. It has declined a great deal against a basket of currencies. As to what's the best strategy: I have about 72% of my portfolio in bonds, mostly municipal bonds that I deem to be relatively secure (I could find out otherwise, admittedly.) I don't buy long bonds or notes -- keeping maturities around 5 to 10 years. I have no U.S. Treasury paper. The other 28% is in stocks, almost entirely in ones that pay dividends of around 4% or more. That means I am loaded up with utilities, pharmaceuticals, oils, a few consumer staples, pipelines, royalty trusts, etc. I do have some overseas investments, such as in Australia and New Zealand. In retrospect, I should have more in those countries, and more in Canada. In short, I go for income, even though the dollar is sputtering. The portfolio has done well in this tough environment, but I am realistic enough to know that I could turn out to be a dunderhead eventually. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 6, 2011 @ 10:40 p.m.

I thought maybe huge electronics sales might have been big enough that the gold price, in terms of "real value," might have risen to some "real market" price without the fear factor. Granted, however, that gold speculators and their henchmen will always be pumping up panic with the idea of selling at the top, thus depressing the price of gold, perhaps even below its "real value" price, then buying in again, ad nauseam. It would seem to me that one might bet short-term, riding on the coattails of the speculators, hoping to sell just before they did, but if not, still having SOME value--which would beat being wiped out entirely.

Regarding Fred's last post: Thanks(I think . . .), Fred, for authoritatively reinforcing my fears about computer programs. My "solution" is to "get small," and "invest" in cached food (e.g. beans and other seeds) in an area so remote and undesirable that Mad Max and his boys would not be attracted there, and learn how to make arrowheads and bows . . . I'll put some of the rest into Don's formula and let the financial managers handle the rest. Diversityculitus?

That is, the earth that the meek shall inherit will be far, far, from anybody's concept of Eden. Not to mention "The American Dream."

Re: By dbauder 9:05 p.m., Aug 5, 2011, Fred_Williams 12:18 a.m., Aug 6, 2011, dbauder 7:34 a.m., Aug 6, 2011

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Don Bauder Aug. 7, 2011 @ 2:57 p.m.

The fear can go the other way, too. A few years ago, when gold was very weak, the precious metals investors and speculators were convinced that world central banks were involved in a conspiracy to run the price of gold down. If so, it didn't work. Best, Don Bader

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Visduh Aug. 8, 2011 @ 8:34 p.m.

Maybe I can actually turn a profit on the gold I bought about thirty years ago. Maybe? Or should I hold it and wait for it to double?

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Don Bauder Aug. 9, 2011 @ 8:15 a.m.

My guess is that gold has further to go on the upside. But central banks can always dump gold to hold down its price, thus, they believe, bolster confidence. Best, Don Bauder

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valueinvestingisdead Aug. 8, 2011 @ 1 p.m.

Down another 600 points. This is only going to cause consumers to spend way less, which will cause negative GDP. The amount of wealth lost in 2 weeks is beyond belief. We have had zero economy for 20+ years..the 90s were the internet bubble economy, which turned out to be a fraud and burst and the 2000s was the housing market, which created false jobs in mortgage business, real estate, construction, banking etc.... then burst. What has been our real economy for the past 20+ years? It all started with Reaganomics and the export of jobs to overseas. Middle Class is done. Even college degreed ones. Future looks really bleak.

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 8, 2011 @ 6:10 p.m.

It all started with Reaganomics and the export of jobs to overseas. Middle Class is done. Even college degreed ones. Future looks really bleak.

================== 100% correct. The middle class has been destroyed, by the last 6 Presdients.

Our entire manufacturing base is now gone.

China exports more goods in a single day today-in 2011- than they did in an entire year in 1978.

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tomjohnston Aug. 8, 2011 @ 7:06 p.m.

China has to export. Their own economy doesn't consume enough to be self supporting at the levels the Chinese gov't wants. And if China tries to unload what has been reported to be more than $1trillion in US debt, the only thing they woould be doing is shootng themselves in the foot because the shrinking the value of the dollar would only hurt the value of their own reserves. They'll keep on buying US debt because it's still the best alternative.

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 8, 2011 @ 11:33 p.m.

They'll keep on buying US debt because it's still the best alternative.

While I agree US debt is still the best of all the options, I think China might want to think twice before taking on more US debt.

I would never buy gold at todays prices, but gold cannot be debased like the dollar has been.

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Don Bauder Aug. 9, 2011 @ 8:23 a.m.

Yes, they will keep buying US debt for the reasons you cite. However, they may buy LESS US debt. That's the worry. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 9, 2011 @ 8:21 a.m.

The U.S. did give away its manufacturing base for the sake of short term profits that would permit CEOs to rake in $14 million a year and Wall Street moguls to rake in $100 million. Congratulations, plutocrats: you destroyed the economy that made you rich. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 9, 2011 @ 8:19 a.m.

The economy has done great for the upper 2% to 10% since the Reagan years, but has gone down for everybody else. This is as a result of both monetary and fiscal policy. Whether Reagan understood it or not, his backers used him to move the U.S. economy toward a plutonomy, or an economy aimed at massaging the rich at the expense of the bottom 90%. Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston Aug. 8, 2011 @ 6:55 p.m.

surfpuppy619 try and find a copy of a Kris Kristofferson/Jane Fonda movie called Rollover. Replace the Arabs in the plot with the Chinese and there's your doomsday scenario.

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Visduh Aug. 8, 2011 @ 8:38 p.m.

I don't think so. Why Kristofferson would have co-starred with her is a mystery. Sure, Redford would make movies with her, they were cut of the same cloth. In case you're wondering why, I can only restate the old bumper sticker. "Vietnam vets are not fonda Jane." 'Nuff said.

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Don Bauder Aug. 9, 2011 @ 8:26 a.m.

I thought Jane Fonda got religion and denounced her earlier activities. Or am I confusing her with somebody else? Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Aug. 9, 2011 @ 8:50 a.m.

Several years ago she offered a sort-of half-a**ed apology that satisfied nobody but her backers. At the same time, she offered justification for what she'd done. Not exactly a denunciation of her activities. It is a mystery to many of us that she was ever given the opportunity to make another movie, or was even able to freely travel the nation, let alone resume a career.

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 8, 2011 @ 11:30 p.m.

try and find a copy of a Kris Kristofferson/Jane Fonda movie called Rollover. Replace the Arabs in the plot with the Chinese and there's your doomsday scenario.

Will rent it.

Kris Kristofferson's older brother is Kraig-he has been a commercial real estate broker here in San Diego for over 30 years, keep an eye out for his listings- downtown office listings.

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Don Bauder Aug. 9, 2011 @ 8:28 a.m.

I would rather be almost anything -- including a Hollywood actor -- than sell commercial real estate in San Diego now. Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston Aug. 9, 2011 @ 9:40 a.m.

Rollover is about 30 yrs old, so I don't know aboout renting it, but it's easy to find on the internet. I have heard KK talk about his brother before. I think he was in SD while he was in the Navy. But I agree with Don Bauder. Not a good time to be in commercial RE right now. We have a friend who works @ CBRE corp office in Santa Monica. I may shoot her an email and see what she says aboput him. If he's been there 30 some yrs, he must be decent at what he does.

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 9, 2011 @ 3:33 p.m.

I have heard KK talk about his brother before. I think he was in SD while he was in the Navy.

In the old days-when Miramar was Fighter Town USA, the commercial real estate field was clogged with former naval aviators-it was all a big club for them, and your chances of being admitted into a major commercial RE firm went up 500% if you were a former pilot.

Since the navy abandoned San Diego that has really changed.

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tomjohnston Aug. 10, 2011 @ 11:35 a.m.

I assume you mean since naval aviation abandoned San Diego. The Navy still has a pretty large presence in San Diego if I'm correct. Not as much as when I was down there as a kid, in the 50's-70's,for sure but Navy is still there. And I think NASNI still has quite a few sqandrons based there. And it really wasn't the Navy, you can blame BRAC for that. BTW, the Marines were actually at Miramar before the Navy was. It wasn't until after WWII that MCAS El Toro opened and the Navy took control of Miramar. My late uncle was a Navy fighter pilot and was stationed in San Diego at one time. I don't really no much of the details, but he was at Miramar for a while. He deployed on the Constellation a couple of times. He was flying from the Constellation he was shot down in early 1971.

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 10, 2011 @ 5:37 p.m.

Yhe Navy still has a BIG presence, especially with 32nd Street and North Island, but the pilots were mainly from Miramar.

I think the loss of Miramar, and the NTC, were a major blows to SD, the place is very different w/o those two institutions. Taking them was taking part of the soul and culture of the city.

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Don Bauder Aug. 9, 2011 @ 8:25 a.m.

Don't ask me about movies. I see about 2 a year. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 8, 2011 @ 10:22 p.m.

As Don says, gold could turn down. What's the history on this? What have been the scenarios that have caused steep declines in the price of gold in the past, and how badly and for how long were holders of gold hurt?

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Don Bauder Aug. 9, 2011 @ 8:37 a.m.

The last big crash in gold was a case of the stuff getting vastly overvalued, and the economy also improving. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 10, 2011 @ 10:42 a.m.

Well, if the Fed is promising to give away money for another two years, one could buy at, say $1,800 and sell at say, $2,500 a year from now . . .?

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Don Bauder Aug. 10, 2011 @ 10:56 a.m.

Of course, you can't borrow for nothing. Only the banks can. And remember, this includes former investment banks such as Goldman Sachs which became commercial banks during the late crisis in one of the more outrageous moves of that bailout period. Sure, Goldman Sachs can borrow money for zero and invest it any way it wants. You can expect the Fed to dish out more to keep the market afloat. Possibly a QEIII program, or the central bank once again buying bonds to keep long term rates low. The liquidity dose the Fed gave yesterday was possibly not enough, given what is happening to the stock market today (Aug. 10). Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 10, 2011 @ 1:30 p.m.

Serfdom may be illegal, but if you have enough power, that's irrelevant.

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Don Bauder Aug. 10, 2011 @ 2:12 p.m.

Of course. If you have enough money and clout, you can keep all the people you want in a state of servitude, and you can also steal at will. Unfortunately, it's the way the system works (doesn't work). Best, Don Bauder

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Submariner Aug. 10, 2011 @ 10:50 p.m.

VigilantinCV said: "Being one of a dying breed who still likes to hear the newspaper hit our driveway I have mixed feelings. I hate what the UT is today but we need a newspaper so badly."

I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately, that's exactly how Platinum provides its product — BADLY.

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Don Bauder Aug. 11, 2011 @ 7:48 a.m.

Remember that Platinum Equity is a private equity group that buys assets to sell them. It says it has made the U-T profitable, but I wonder if it has merely loosened up the accounting. However, I don't KNOW that -- just suspect it from what I know about private equity groups. It has made massive layoffs;; that could lead to profitability that is transient. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 12, 2011 @ 12:58 p.m.

What are the tangible assets worth? What's the asking price? How much negotiating room? How many customers who will pay enough to realize a profit when they're flipped?

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Don Bauder Aug. 12, 2011 @ 1:10 p.m.

Platinum bought real estate from Copley with assessed valuations of above $100 million. But the commercial real estate industry is in the megrims. They are not worth that sum in this market. As to customers? Don't know. I doubt if the U-T does either. Best, Don Bauder

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JustWondering Aug. 12, 2011 @ 3:41 p.m.

Sadly, the only difference between dinosaurs and the UT is a meteor hasn't struck 350....yet. And, like the dinosaurs, print newspapers will be extinct within a decade, two at the most. The process of printed and distributing a newspaper is just too slow in this technologically paced world. While newspapers worked for Benjamin Franklin in a brave new world, the 24/7 newscycle never stops, and is stale in just a few hours.

While magazines, weekly and boutique papers will survive albeit not without pain, the daily is dead. But San Diego, with its history of corruption, mismanagement and other shenanigans absolutely needs a Watchdog on guard. Hopefully whoever ends up running the enterprise known as the UT will be able to bring it into the 21st century with a new strategy for success.

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Don Bauder Aug. 13, 2011 @ 7:41 a.m.

The U-T is trying to utilize electronic means of getting out news quickly. The trick is making money on it. I think big metro dailies have a short life span facing them, although I think they will still be alive in two decades. Small dailies in remote areas are often doing very well and will continue to do so. Same for some weeklies. Reason: little electronic competition. A classic example is Lee Newspapers, parent of the North County Times. This company was doing very well with small newspapers until it took on a pile of debt to buy the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Then Lee's results and value plunged. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Aug. 14, 2011 @ 11:24 p.m.

In the UT, a very bad thing. Mike Aguirre pumping for a Sports Authority to give away money to professional sports teams...a hagiography of the Chargers experience and its alleged importance to San Diego. With the anticipated forebearance of the Reader's admin, I am reposting my reply in the comments here:

See the original here and feel free to add your comments:

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/aug/14/san-diego-cannot-afford-lose-chargers/

No, Mike...you're wrong on this issue.

We've spoken, and I've supported you over the years when everyone else was calling you names. But I think you're on the wrong track when you eloquently, but misleadingly, equate a fleeting pleasant emotional state, vicariously achieved, with accomplishment and pride.

San Diego has paid (and paid, and paid, and paid) for professional football entertainment for 50 years.

Football is a sport that really belongs to the east coast, south, and midwest. California is known for surfing, skating, volleyball, and other sports more reflective of our lifestyle and climate.

So its no wonder that a sports-entertainment business requires constant government support to maintain itself when the residents of the area have so many other, better, cheaper, healthier options than being "fans" of imported and mostly irrelevant football.

Considering this, it's simply unreasonable that we should continue the folly of subsidizing this expensive entertainment when we are cutting VITAL services.

San Diego is not unique or consequential or substantially better because of the Chargers. The opposite may be true. If football is so important, and really makes a city great, then surely Detroit, Green Bay, or Pittsburgh must be ranked more highly for quality of life than San Diego?

Come on, Mike. San Diego is what it is because of the sand, surf, weather, educational institutions, proximity to Mexico, and long time Navy influence. The professional sports teams are a mere footnote.

So I disagree. We do NOT need yet another layer of government, a sports authority, to employ former professional politicians as they await a return to office. We do NOT need to continue the bad precedent of throwing away money subsidizing entertainment when we're simultaneously cutting spending on education, infrastructure, and public safety.

Football may be fun and interesting, and produce momentary euphoria. Well, so is reality television, or pot, sniffing glue, or watching strippers for that matter. That doesn't make it something we should subsidize at the expense of our long term interests.

You can love the Chargers, or you can love San Diego. In today's economic climate, Mike, you cannot love them both.

Respectfully,

Fred Williams

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Visduh Aug. 15, 2011 @ 11:38 a.m.

While I am very disappointed in Aguirre stumping for this sports giveaway scheme, I don't see football as "a sport that really belongs to the east coast, south, and midwest." It is plenty popular here in California and in other Sun Belt areas. Just look at the following the Chargers have kept during some really poor seasons with inept coaching and weak offenses. One of the reasons "San Diego has paid (and paid, and paid, and paid) for professional football entertainment for 50 years" is that the football fans really, really wanted a pro team here and no politician dared to oppose the giveaways. It was the true third rail of local politics. Fred, you're right about loving the team or loving the city being mutually exclusive, but anyone who comes out publicly and says that SD taxpayers will no longer pay for the team and that Spanos and gang are welcome to leave for LA is political toast.

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Don Bauder Aug. 15, 2011 @ 2:21 p.m.

That's right: the politician saying the Chargers can leave is toast because 20% of sports fans are utterly rabid. They make up a significant voting bloc. Pathetic, that, but true. I hope these fans, and those working for the Chargers, realize that using redevelopment funds to subsidize teams owned by billionaires is theft from schools. But, sad to say, the San Diego establishment would rather have highly-subsidized pro football than good schools. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Aug. 15, 2011 @ 9:33 p.m.

Politicians who oppose sports subsidies are toast.

Yes. Very true.

In 1994 I was a minor darling of San Diego Republicans, a promising young politician who had done well in an underfunded city wide race, built up name recognition and contacts, was probably going to run again and maybe win...

Then I joined people like Richard Rider in opposing the midnight demolition (anyone remember that?) and rebuild of The Murph, the quickie naming rights sale (at a bargain price) to Irwin Jacobs, and the inevitable "golly, now the Padres need a place to play" that followed.

I debated Roger Hedgecock on air, predicting that we would end up paying out the nose for the ballpark (he claimed it would never take a dime from the general fund).

Yes, I also simultaneously moved fulltime into IT, where the money is much better and the work is far more honest. Yet I can say with some certainty that as soon as I became anti-sports-subsidies, any plans for eventually representing San Diegans in poltical office were "toast".

(And it's probably made my life a lot better, to tell the truth...)

Best,

Fred

P.s. To validate what I claim here, have a look at UT archives for 1994, SDCCD Board of Trustees, District E, and check the final election results through the Registrar's website. Don't know if recordings of Hedgecock are available from so long ago...I doubt it.

P.p.s. I'm sure if I were to run for office today, even having been largely vindicated in my previous positions, as an open atheist, foreign language speaker, former trailer park resident, who opposes sports subsidies...I would be the first candidate in history to actually receive a negative number of votes.

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Don Bauder Aug. 15, 2011 @ 2:16 p.m.

I agree with you, Fred, and not with Aguirre. However, I had talked with Aguirre before the piece ran, and a critical part of it was apparently left out. I am not free to say what it was. I reached Aguirre and he was camping. I hope he gives me permission to state what may have been left out. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Aug. 15, 2011 @ 9:22 p.m.

Now that is interesting...please do ask him for permission to tell us wtf he was really thinking.

Also ask, please, why he trusts the UT after all the times it has sabotaged him...is it Charlie Brown kicking at Lucy's football?

Good grief!

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Twister Aug. 15, 2011 @ 3:08 p.m.

I was a big fan and supporter of Aguirre. He caught me napping. More than once. No more. The Emperor has been disrobed. Three strikes--or should I say running the ball into the wrong end zone? Well, if sports are good for anything, at least they provide metaphors, analogies, and aphorisms.

"Even Napoleon had his Watergate." Yogi Berra

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Don Bauder Aug. 15, 2011 @ 8:42 p.m.

Again, a critical part of that piece was left out. I am not free to say what it was. I hope to be. Mike should have said the piece should have been killed if the critical part was to be deleted. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 15, 2011 @ 3:14 p.m.

Well, I saw Ed Roski's front man on TV a few weeks back, and he *claimed* the financiing for an LA Stadium is all set-done deal, no hold ups (I find this imposssible to believe) and the only thing holding them from breaking ground was they did not have a team yet.

Go Chargers. Go away already.

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Don Bauder Aug. 15, 2011 @ 8:46 p.m.

Yeah, but the momentum seems to be with AEG, not Roski. I doubt that two stadiums will be built. Will the Chargers go to LA? There is no doubt in my mind that this is what ownership prefers. But because there could be roadblocks to going to LA, the team continues to claim it wants to stay in San Diego. It's going down two tracks, and one (to LA) is the preferred one. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 15, 2011 @ 7:35 p.m.

Grown up men and women may PLAY sports, but be he or she who just likes to watch . . . well . . .

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Don Bauder Aug. 15, 2011 @ 8:47 p.m.

If the Chargers move to LA, think about this: San Diegans could probably watch the games on TV without fear of blackouts. It's really a TV game. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 15, 2011 @ 9:54 p.m.

If the Chargers move to LA, think about this: San Diegans could probably watch the games on TV without fear of blackouts. It's really a TV game. Best, Don Bauder

========================= Oh man, you nailed it Don!!!!!! Good one.

NO MORE blackouts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And yet LA is still close enought to drive and see the game in person if fans wanted to!

We ALL win!!!!!

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Don Bauder Aug. 16, 2011 @ 7:39 a.m.

The best part is that the half a billion dollars -- at least -- that the City would save could go to repair infrastructure, clean up rundown neighborhoods, reopen libraries and rec centers, etc. Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston Aug. 16, 2011 @ 10:30 a.m.

That depends, surfpuppy619. Remember, the league sets primary markets and secondary markets. L.A. is a secondary market to San Diego and is affected by blackouts of the Charger games. If the Chargers are blacked out in SD, then they're blacked out in L.A. as well; you have to go to Santa Barbara or Bakersfield or Yuma to see them. It would be logical to assume that if the Chargers move from San Diego to L.A. then the league would just flip flop the primary and secondary markets. And the secondary markets aren't required to show the games anyway so maybe the San Diego stations wouldn't show them just out of spite. I have been told that if you have a direct tv dish, allegedly for your rv, that is registered in the Silicon Valley, say Cupertino for example, then in theory, no matter where you were, you would be able to get everything but the Niners and Raiders. Not that I have any personal knowledge of such things.

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Visduh Aug. 16, 2011 @ 8:44 p.m.

But wouldn't all those millions of pro football starved Angelenos and OCountians flock to see the new "home" team and produce sellouts? A sellout is a sellout is a sellout. There would be a huge market for televising those games to SD county.

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tomjohnston Aug. 18, 2011 @ 8:51 a.m.

I couldn't tell you about that one. Are you a Chargers fan and if so would you drive up to LA for a game? I'm not a Chargers fan. I follow the Niners, Patriots and Cowboys. So unless one of those 3 teams are relocating, I'm not all that interested. If it were a new expansion team, I might feel differently. But If I don't already follow a team, I'm not going to give up following a team or teams I have been following for decades just because the Chargers or any other team moves to L.A. Apparently, I'm not one of those " fanatics" Don Bauder writes about.

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Fred Williams Aug. 15, 2011 @ 10:03 p.m.

Back on the original topic...UT profitability.

As a "geek", I notice things...about the signonsandiego website:

They're running a massive amount of flash advertisements. If you're able, check out the plugin container on your browser and how it goes through the roof when you open the UT site. Kill the plugin, (see the flash animations grey out) and look...the plugin restarts and you have to kill it a second time. Very interesting...

I'm assuming they're scooping up a lot of user data. I wouldn't be surprised if they're using the controversial "zombie cookies".

See:

On another revenue increasing front, instead of having articles as static elements to which other functions (like commenting) point, they tend to have replications of articles (seemingly as unique instances, which is important for billing). The result can be seen right now with the Aguirre stadium op-ed. There are two (that I know of) identical versions of the article, each with a unique comment thread. (Strangely, while the urls appear identical, it depends on how you navigate to the article to determine which version you are served.)

One way you can detect this is claims by regular UT commenters that their comments have been removed...actually, they've just been served a different version of the same page...with it's own unique comment thread.

So it looks, from the outside, like their site administration isn't well planned or deployed -- although from the inside it may make quite good sense since this strategy may boost ad rates and claims of unique page hits. (Cool, we charge the advertisers twice on the Aguirre piece, and they probably won't notice...hee, hee.)

It's also possible, of course, that they charge different rates for these different versions of the same page, and all this is well understood by their advertisers...or it's even possible that they serve a different instance of the same article based on what they learn from the persistent zombie cookies.

I don't really know, and am only guessing from observing as an outsider. Still, I find it interesting to watch the evolution of the UT site and what they're running in the user's browser.

Best,

Fred

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Don Bauder Aug. 16, 2011 @ 7:44 a.m.

Those are some very insightful observations, Fred. It is a good question whether the online version is jacking up its unique hits. If it is happening, it would permit the raising of rates. Advertisers would be cheated. Remember, I don't know this is happening, but you have raised some very good points. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 18, 2011 @ 4:25 p.m.

I just avoid the site. There's no there there anyhow.

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Twister Aug. 16, 2011 @ 2:32 p.m.

If the UT (and countless other website "administrators") spent more time understanding how the Internet CAN work (potential), and less time being obsessed with how it DOES "work," which reduces its potential to an on-line version of old-line/off-line whizz-bang toy, they could make billions honestly. But I ain't about to tip them off. Nobody's done it yet, but somebody will someday. Honest hacking, not cracking, is actually heroic.

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Don Bauder Aug. 16, 2011 @ 5 p.m.

"Honest hacking?" Please expatiate. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 16, 2011 @ 3:08 p.m.

HEADLINE THIS--Over and over again until we all get deja vu . . .

"If the Chargers move to LA, think about this: San Diegans could probably watch the games on TV without fear of blackouts. It's really a TV game. Best, Don Bauder"

By dbauder 8:47 p.m., Aug 15, 2011

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Don Bauder Aug. 16, 2011 @ 5:03 p.m.

Since Los Angelenos already watch the Chargers on TV, there could be something to appease SD -- maybe the team being named the Southern California Chargers. When SDG&E combined with a utility in the LA area, the compromise was to move the headquarters to SD. This would be similar. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 16, 2011 @ 6:46 p.m.

That would be an extra-smart marketing move, but the pack of sleazebags running the show are far, far too stoopid (paranoid, narcissistic, psychopathic) to think out of their greasy boxes.

You can have no idea how much egocentrism plays into their calculating. It is very important to them to screw the opposition. Of course, their consumption of drugs magnifies everything.

They wouldn't give you the satisfaction--even if it cost 'em.

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Twister Aug. 16, 2011 @ 3:13 p.m.

O'Neill did a fabulous job. This is not the first time I've screwed up a reference--for years I attributed "It's a helluva lot easier to find a million suckers with a buck than one sucker with a million" to P. T. Barnum

Kindly fix this one too, please.

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Don Bauder Aug. 16, 2011 @ 5:04 p.m.

Was that Eugene O'Neill? Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 16, 2011 @ 8:01 p.m.

I suppose I should know him, but I confess I don't. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 16, 2011 @ 8:22 p.m.

". . . not a transcript of Yogi Berra's SLU commencement address. It's the invention of St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter Dan O'Neill, who, not having heard Yogi's actual address, published (a week after the event) his own imagined version of what a Yogi Berra speech might sound like. O'Neill's introduction to the article clued readers in that he was writing with tongue planted firmly in cheek . . ."

See: "And the great Yog takes another foul ball in the gut:

. http://www.snopes.com/quotes/yogiberr ... .

By Duhbya 9:28 a.m., Aug 16, 2011 "

In other words, I screwed up and accepted a Yogi quote from an Internet Yogi and Duhbya caught me, leveling one right past my nose in his usual cryptic, spitball fashion. Sabe?

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Duhbya Aug. 17, 2011 @ 9:48 a.m.

Cryptic, si. Spitball, no. It's a slider. And the arcane posts are due primarily to the 12 hour per day nature of my work, staring at and fiddling with 2 pc's all day, while fielding 150-200 calls from clients. At least it's spent in the idyllic confines of my casa, comforted by pets and females. Now if I could just find me one a' them newfangled standing desks.....

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Twister Aug. 16, 2011 @ 6:35 p.m.

The Hacker's Code of Ethics (as opposed to "crackers."

Fred Williams might care to explain this better, as he is much more qualified than I (a real computer Luddite).

Levy (1984) suggests that there is a "code of ethics" for hacking which, though not pasted on the walls, is in the air:

Access to Computers - and anything which might teach you something about the way the world works - should be unlimited and total. Always yield to the Hands-On Imperative! All information should be free. Mistrust Authority - Promote Decentralization. Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position. You can create art and beauty on a computer. Computers can change your life for the better. Reference:

Levy, Steven. 1984. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, Anchor Press/Doubleday, Garden City, NY, 458 pp.

http://courses.cs.vt.edu/cs3604/lib/WorldCodes/Hackers.Code.html

This is one version. "Cracking," on the other hand, is considered unethical by hackers.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker_e...

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Don Bauder Aug. 16, 2011 @ 8:04 p.m.

Good to know the difference between hackers and crackers. What about Packers -- as in Green Bay? Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams Aug. 17, 2011 @ 11:40 p.m.

I'm not a hacker myself, but I know a few...

I think the hacker ethic is very compatible with libertarianism politically, which is why such a large number of IT folks support someone like Ron Paul.

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Psycholizard Aug. 16, 2011 @ 7:44 p.m.

There''s nothing wrong with our Stadium, only the Chargers complain about it. The present location is superior. My guess is that Spanos wants to develop the current stadium parking lot. This real estate equity must be the cash that would make the deal go. This a very poor time to sell/lease city property, because demand is low.

12th and Imperial is not a better place to see a football game than Mission Valley, even if the new Stadium was free. The proposals I've seen so far seem like paying a Billion dollars to be poked in the eye. I challenge any one who backs this proposal to leave their car five hours on the street in the evening at the proposed site. Who wants to drop off your teenager on South 16th?. This is SO CRAZY.

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Don Bauder Aug. 16, 2011 @ 8:08 p.m.

Yes, the whole idea is crazy, particularly since the Padres attracted more attendance at Qualcomm (even with losing teams) than they have brought in the last few seasons since the novelty of Petco wore off. Qualcomm has superb parking and an excellent location. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 16, 2011 @ 8:13 p.m.

"San Diego needs a reliable, vigilant daily paper. It has a reliable, vigilant weekly: The Reader. Best, Don Bauder By dbauder 12:29 p.m., Aug 3, 2011"

What are the Reader's demographics?

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Don Bauder Aug. 17, 2011 @ 8:55 a.m.

I'm not the one to ask about Reader demographics. That's a question for the management. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 17, 2011 @ 2:06 p.m.

Ok, I'll speculate: The Reader's readership is highly skewed toward the youngest end of the spectrum; the UT to the oldest. I suspect that it is even more extreme right here in Bauder City.

Does this have anything to do with the death of newspapers? Would a quality-packed daily that reconciled the Great Age Divide have any hope of surviving?

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Don Bauder Aug. 17, 2011 @ 4:35 p.m.

Again, I am not qualified to speak (certainly not for the Reader) on this topic, but I believe I have a right to state my own opinion. I think the Reader has a demographic profile that pleases advertisers -- that is, a young, greatly post-college readership, generally well-educated. I think the U-T has an older audience -- certainly more pro-establishment than the Reader. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 18, 2011 @ 4:10 p.m.

What overlap of those two demographic might a regional daily be well-advised to consider?

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Don Bauder Aug. 18, 2011 @ 8:52 p.m.

Young audiences get their information online. It's much more timely. But the Reader gives them interpretative stories they can't get anywhere else. And we also give such stories online. But the U-T is simply incapable of providing such interpretations to its readership. Never has been and I doubt ever will be. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 18, 2011 @ 4:14 p.m.

I hope Fred will find the time to hold forth a bit more on hackers and Ron Paul and Libertarianism.

RE: "I'm not a hacker myself, but I know a few...

I think the hacker ethic is very compatible with libertarianism politically, which is why such a large number of IT folks support someone like Ron Paul. By Fred_Williams 11:40 p.m., Aug 17, 2011"

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Don Bauder Aug. 18, 2011 @ 8:54 p.m.

I am for full disclosure. But the information should not be obtained illegally. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 18, 2011 @ 10:45 p.m.

Well, we could still be English subjects. Worse, we are serfs for Wall Street. Don, all hackers are not criminals; what is criminal is how our Regal Authorities use statutes to manipulate us.

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Don Bauder Aug. 19, 2011 @ 7:25 a.m.

Agreed: we are serfs under Wall Street's control. Best, Don Bauder

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