Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Biden's less than townee meeting

Vice President Joe Biden gave a couple of impromtu speeches during a supposed town-hall meeting streamed live over the Internet by 9News yesterday.

I watched, and then I tried to write something about what I listened to, but for the life of me could not remember much. It all seemed so blah, blah, blah.

Biden had a few moments. "These are real, live jobs, for a real, live future," I heard him say. "These jobs are going to be high-paying, good jobs." And, "It's not just about a job, it's about a job people can live on."

And Biden and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced a $500 million job-training program that would focus on retraining people nationwide for "green" jobs -- work related to energy efficiency, fixing global warming and saving the world's environment, primarily in the United States.

It was inspiring, and not at all in the spirit of Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadham's critical comment to Denver Post Reporter Jessica Fender about Democrats from Washington: "They're costing more jobs, and they're costing Coloradan families more than they could ever replace with these feel-good government programs they're talking about."

But Wadhams is right (both literally and figuratively) about one thing. The jobs Biden is talking about for the middle class -- the Vice President came to Denver under the auspices of his leadership of a White House Middle Class Task Force -- are so far the fantasies of Washington bureaucrats rationalizing the spending of billions and billions of dollars.

Biden, in fact, said he was coming to Denver as a representative of a government unlike any other in the world. "No government in the world has had a trillion dollar allocation out there" to apply to a nation's jobs formation and the cleaning up of its environment, he said.

And he's correct.

Liberals in America, me among them, and the middle class (I guess I register in the lower portion of that class right now) can thank our national government for dedicating the money it has legislated to rebuilding an economy the past Bush administration, Wall Street and Corporate America has left destitute.

But other than two questions from the audience that actually challenged the bevy of Cabinet members and their top deputies who showed up at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, there was not much town-hall in the town-hall meeting.

Official Colorado and official Washington did most of the talking, and other than the tall stools most of the officials sat on, the look of the meeting, through the lens of 9News, was mostly as if the speakers had a podium separating them from the private club members who surrounded them.

The public was invited to pick up tickets to the event at 9 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Denver Tuesday morning, and I got there at 8:55 hoping to attend the session in person and provide some first-person coverage here in my blog.

But all the 20 or 25 tickets that were made available at the hotel were already given away when I got there, so I came home hoping to pick up coverage of the meeting either on the 9News or Denver Post websites.

Fender and Lynn Bartels were chatting inanely on an instant message board when I got to the Post's site, but then I found the live stream at 9News and was able to turn off the newspaper's silly assignment of two writers trying to do two different things at the same time.

But even the televised version of the session suggested something less than a wide-open-spaces discussion of middle-class restructuring and globe-saving enterprise.

The fixed camera couldn't pick up all participants, and the speeches came off, as I have already said, as blah, blah, blah. In fact, I nearly fell asleep in front of my computer.

But that would be like sleeping on the job. And no one in this economy can afford to do that!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pre-obit: Can wait to see what you write

Today's Denver Post seems well packed with ads, belying the demise of newspapers as all and everyone from the blogosphere to the Business Wire seem to constantly predict nowadays.

It's Memorial Day, and, although it would be proper to memorialize a veteran on this day -- my nephew thanked me for being one yesterday, but I corrected him and he, self-correcting himself, pointed out that only my brother and my once brother-in-law had actually put in time in the military when we were still young -- I read in today's Post a sort of memorializing of a cancer patient before her memorializing time.

(You have to read that sentence closely in order to understand its convoluted flow, dear reader, but be patient, I will further explain.)

Bill Johnson, a Post columnist, wrote a piece in today's paper about a woman cancer victim, Kama Winter, who Johnson had written about earlier, and who he was surprised to see still living when he ran into her at a local cafe.

I would guess many people who know me might have the same reaction sometime this year as I also emerge from my battle with the disease to live and write another day.

But I am back! Just like Kama Winter.

Johnson wrote that Winter was still in the three-to-five-year stage of checking back on her cancer so doctors can determine whether she actually has kicked it. I am in the very early stage of the same time frame, and am scheduled to learn on Thursday whether a blood test shows any signs of recurrence. I'll report the results here.

But it was good to hear and read about Winter. I congratulate her as a fellow cancer survivor even if it may be, like me, only for the time being.

Our service to our nation has not been military, as far as I can tell from Bill Johnson's column. Mine has, however, been through several of those supposedly failing print journalism products like the Post, which now, thank goodness, seems quite healthy, judging from Monday's ad count.

Considering how little I was paid during my journalism career, I think my service to the country, although sans any death threat, ought also to be considered at least public service of some sort.

But all that can be for a reporter's piece memorializing me when the time comes.

Have at it all you surviving ink-stained wretches. I'll be interested to see from the other side what you write!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Denver's Small Business Week events

This from the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs, since small business is indeed part of the metro-area's culture:

DENVER SMALL BUSINESS WEEK: MAY 18–22 Denver Office of Economic Development Small business is big business in the City and County of Denver, counting for approximately 83 percent of the total number of businesses in the Mile High City. To celebrate Small Business Week, the Denver Office of Economic Development is offering a number of free events to assist entrepreneurs and business owners with running a successful company.

Denver Business Assistance Center Open House Monday, May 18–Thursday, May 21, from 8am to 5pm Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building201 W. Colfax Ave. Since its inception in 2005, the Denver Business Assistance Center has helped nearly 14,000 individuals with doing business within the City and County of Denver. Learn more about how the center can help you navigate through licensing, permitting and regulatory issues while offering research tools and community resources to help with the successful start, growth and management of a small business.

The Economic Stimulus: What It Really Means for Small Business Wednesday, May 20, from 9–11 amJohnson & Wales University Jared Polis Auditorium College of Business 1900 Olive St. Offered by the Denver Metro SBDC and the Denver Office of Economic Development, this panel discussion will help business owners understand the truth about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and its impact on small businesses. Panel to include representatives from the Colorado Bankers Association, Colorado Office of Economic Development, Small Business Administration, Wells Fargo and the Denver Office of Economic Development.

Business Survival Forum Thursday, May 21, from 10am–2pm Colorado Community College System Lowry Campus, Lowry Conference Center, 1061 Akron Way Advance registration is required by calling 720-913-1542.During these tough times, learn what steps your business can take to survive and thrive. Join us for seminar presentations on Creative Marketing, Using Emotional Intelligence to Grow your Business, Staffing Solutions and Greening Your Business. Luncheon to feature Funding Your Enterprise, keynote address by speaker David O'Brien, CEO of the Business Catapult, a start-up software company that connects investors and entrepreneurs.

Employee Recruitment and Training Services: The Skills Clinic Friday, May 22, from 9:00am–3:30pm Colorado Community College System Lowry Campus, Lowry Conference Center, 1061 Akron Way Community College of Denver, South Classroom, 1111 W. Colfax Ave. Did you know that the Office of Economic Development assists employers with their staff recruitment and training needs? Learn more about how the office can connect you with qualified employees, provide you with customized training opportunities and more. For more information on Denver Small Business Week, visit or call 720-913-1999.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Post screams too loud: Buy, buy, buy!

"The Sunday Denver Post ." That's the proud banner of today's newspaper atop everything on its front page but the Post's slogan: "Voice of the Rocky Mountain Empire."

Yet at the very bottom of the same page is a red-white-and-green, three-and-a-quarter-inch-deep commercial -- for Target.

Shame, shame, shame on the Post.


What's the problem with an advertisement on the bottom of the front page of a newspaper? The Wall Street Journal does it. Newspapers across the land are doing it because all of them are failing, because their traditional advertisers are failing to advertise, and those advertisers are stupidly failing to recognize that a local newspaper is still probably the largest advertising venue in a region.

What's the big deal?

Well, what if you had just started listening to 9News at Five, or at ten o'clock, and just after Adele Arakawa finished reading the first sentence of the news station's lead story, she took a moment for a little commercial break from her friends at Target!

Then, there on your screen, like at the bottom of the front page of the Post this morning, were images of watermelon, catsup -- or ketchup, as Heinz clearly chooses to spell it -- cole slaw and pork ribs. And a voice-over on the TV said what it says on the bottom of the front page of the Sunday Denver Post: "Right price. Right when you need it."

And those people dared to toss that newspaper at the foot of my driveway this morning.

I'd almost rather read the rag on my computer screen where I can ignore the ads even more easily than I can ignore what I want to ignore in the printed edition of the Post.

Shame, shame on Dean Singleton. Three days after he was deservedly recognized for the good he has done.

Doesn't he know, as the current chair of the Associated Press, that the reason newspapers are losing their traditional audience is not because old readers are dying off and not being being replaced by younger readers. Younger readers will grow to be older readers and learn the newspaper is where you learn the most useful information.

Newspapers are failing because they no longer serve readers the way they should. Independent of advertisers who finance their pages. Free from the pressure to commercialize every darn thing in a reader's life today.

The reason Internet advertising cannot replace the revenues print advertising brings to a newspaper is because the ads on the 'Net are more easily ignored by readers of content on the Internet than they can be ignored in print.

Readers of news don't want to be bothered by ads. But they can't help paging past them.

That's why the tradition of an ad-free front page was established by the old editors of the newspaper industry. Breaking that tradition may gain a minimal increase in short-term cash flow, but by joining the commerical crowd, a newspaper ends its public service to readers who are more interested in news.

No wonder newspapers fall away into the 'Net, and, once there, don't even come close to producing the dollars they have made with printed versions.

Stand up for your readers, Dean Singleton! Be a press baron worthy of the name.

Print the news and print your ads, but allow the reader to choose what's more important, more beautiful, more interesting, more demanding of a reader's attention. Take away that choice and there's no doubt they will leave you like a wet rag in the driveway in the rain.

Where's the value in picking you up?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Old souls

Has anyone ever estimated how many people have lived on this planet throughout all time?

The late astronomer Carl Sagan used to entertain us with his expression "miiiiillions and biiiiillions of stars," but have there been more humans than even the number of stars? Trillions?

Not according to estimates you can find quickly on the Internet, which I should have guessed when I formed the question in my own mind.

My mother is dying. Contemplating that fact, I realized I am one of many, many millions of people on earth now, and I wondered: Has anyone ever estimated how many people have lived on this planet throughout all time?

I found out, too, that I have come to the population game late in life.

I Googled "historic population of earth" and came up with the top three of
almost 45 million links, the top two being Wikipedia addresses, but the third asking my very question: "How many people have ever lived on Earth?"

The link was to the Population Reference Bureau where the site told me an article titled "How Many People Have Ever Lived on Earth?" was the most requested article ever published in Population Today, apparently the Reference Bureau's primary publication before it ceased printing with it with the magazine's November/December 2002 issue.

Carl Laub wrote that most requested article -- or an update of an article which first appeared in 1995 -- for that final issue of Population Today in 2002.

So Laub's best estimate of the world's historic population dates to that November/December 2002 time frame.

One hundred and six and a half billion (106.5 billion) people.

If I were still writing for newspapers, an editor would ask me to tell my readers how many times a line of all those humans holding hands would circle the globe, but thank God I'm no longer in newspapers.

One hundred six and one half billion (106.5 B) as of the end of 2002.

That's a lot of souls to have passed through the Earth's atmosphere. I am one of them and so is my mother.

I still wonder where we all hang out after we die. I can imagine a heaven and a hell, and I believe in an afterlife.

I believe Carl Sagan is there, and if you tune to his "portal," you hear some pretty heavenly music.

Counting the stars, I would guess.

And, yes, basking in the biiiilions and biiillions, even triiiillions, of light years left him for eternity.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pro-business bills wait gov's signature

Gov. Bill Ritter has a chance to make up for some of the so-called "blows" dealt to the Colorado business community by his pro-labor administration by signing two economic-development bills sent to him by the legislature.

One bill, the Colorado Regional Tourism Act, would provide incentives to economic developers to undertake large "destination" development projects like a NASCAR racetrack or Olympic-game sports venues, future attractions for destination tourists from around the nation and the world.

I have long endorsed Colorado government efforts to attract tourism dollars to the state as well as government effort to attract new business to Colorado.

The second business-friendly bill awaiting a governor's signature would waive a long-standing requirement for a minimum of three bidders on large state procurement contracts, ostensibly to allow the state some flexibility in meeting the deadlines of the nation's economic stimulus package.

Waiting or arranging to get three bids on large state-funded projects can delay their start up, officials told The Denver Post, on whose reporting I am relying on to write this post.

I would normally be wary of the quick passage of such waiver legislation, but I have also been critical in the past of the state's byzantine procurement process, and can imagine the possibility of Colorado missing out on stimulus dollars because it couldn't get an expensive project through the process with dispatch.

Comments from readers on The Post's website were limited this morning to the tourism bill. One of the four comments was vacuous and the other three raised a cry against corporate welfare that is typical of knee-jerk liberal reaction to such economic incentives.

The newspaper quoted University of Colorado economist Jeff Zax saying the legislation was a clear attempt to use public money for private benefit. The story also cited a report by the Bell Policy Center that reportedly shows the state's long-standing enterprise-zone program has failed.

Neither criticism holds up. The tourism bill would use far less state money than private investors would risk to build a venue, and the benefits of a successful public-private venture would swamp the costs. The enterprise-zone effort was miniscule in terms of state dollars, so to criticize it for not having a big return rings somewhat hollow.

Ritter can sign both bills in the knowledge that provisions are made in each for state officials to monitor and prevent his or any future administration from going overboard to favor developers with state money that has no hope of achieving an economic benefit for a large number of the state's citizens.

A metro-area racetrack, even if it were to fail over the long haul (which continued growth of the state's ecnomomy would help prevent), would create small-business jobs among vendors to service it. Olympic games and the longer-lasting venues they often produce in a region also hold out the promise of attracting more tourist dollars over 50 years than the state might attract without them.

Ritter would be wise to sign both bills and prove to his Republican friends that a Democratic governor can be just as healthy for business, perhaps even more so, than one of their own.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Joe Blake steps up to statewide impact

And yet another!

... Republican-inspired headline I can be happy about, I mean.

... Following on my last post, about Bruce Benson's budget cuts for the University of Colorado.

This new headline, again from The Post, which is the only major newspaper in town anymore, was about Joe Blake, president of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, taking the post of chancellor of Colorado State University.

Congratulations, Joe.

That's two Republican Denver businessmen now holding the reins of two of the state's leading public universities. Who's next?

Colorado School of Mines is the only major public institution left to be led. Stan Kroenke? He holds his politics pretty close to the vest, but Wal-Mart execs are generally Republican, at least they run their stores that way, and Kroenke is married to a Walton.

Or how about Don Elliman, a former Kroenke exec who now is director of Gov. Bill Ritter's Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

Elliman is part of a Democratic administration and has contributed to both Mark Udall's and Ken Salazar's U.S. Senate campaigns; but he has also worked for Kroenke, has been a big-time magazine publisher (who mostly are Republican), and has contributed to Pete Coors' failed Senate campaign as well.

Either Kroenke or Elliman, although not engineers, could easily be good candidates for running the School of Mines like a business. Of course, there are probably any number of Republican engineers who would be just as qualified, if not more so.

Anyway, it's good to know Joe Blake is moving up to a position with more of a statewide impact. His good cheer and business smarts will be well applied to running a university.

Colorado's institutions of public higher education have to be a priority of state government now.

The economics of the higher-ed industry -- and don't mistake me, everything has been turned into an industry in America these days, from poetry to education to sport -- are working against the best interests of all Coloradans right now, and must be corrected for the greater good.

Joe Blake is a great candidate for helping to make things right. I wish him the best of luck.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Save higher ed now, even if it is a Republican idea

Finally, a Republican-inspired headline in Colorado I can like! "CU slashes jobs, salaries," The Denver Post screamed Saturday.

The headline was inspired by University of Colorado President Bruce Benson, a Republican. Benson, anticipating like a good businessman should the funding shortfalls CU will face if the state's financial problems with higher education continue, announced budget cuts that will be inevitable once federal stimulus dollars finally get used up.

It's no shame to anticipate the worst of times when a business budgets for its future; and even though public education is a liberal and Democratic cause, the value of having a loyal opposition can be seen in Benson's businesslike attention to CU's money problems.

Now, if Benson holds true to Gov. Bill Ritter's predecessor's philosophy as governor, and maintains as low a tuition for in-state CU students as possible, Benson will have performed well in the footsteps of Bill Owens; and Colorado will be glad to thank both of them for their foresight.

This, perhaps, is the first time I can adequately explain my vote to endorse Bob Beauprez for governor over Bill Ritter way back when I was editor of ColoradoBiz magazine.

I thought then, and still think now, that Beauprez then was more qualified to be governor than Ritter, although I have to admit Gov. Ritter has done as good a job as anyone has a right to expect from a rather unexciting politician since his election.

Benson's budget cuts prove, as Beauprez did back during the 2006 race for chief executive of Colorado, that Republican-inspired frugality can be a good thing, even if Republican anti-tax philosophy is misguided -- no, ... make that insane.

Ritter signed a $17.9 billion budget bill on Friday, and, during the legislative session, did a good job negotiating toward a reasonable way to finance state government during the 2009-2010 fiscal year. "Just as families and businesses all across Colorado are doing, we made some very tough choices," Ritter was quoted by The Post as saying when he signed the legislation.

Making hard decisions is what Benson is doing as well. His actions may have some political side effects and overtones, but they also represent effective leadership in the face of dire circumstances, circumstances Ritter had promised business he would fix during his term.

Colorado higher education deserves a permanent fix of its money problems. So do Colorado college students.

"There's always next year" is no longer a face-saving slogan that can be used by the Denver Broncos or the Denver Nuggets. It seems it will always remain words to be invoked by a state lawmaker.

With the signing of the budget bill, however, next year is already here.

And once again voters may take to the polls to fix public higher education's problems in Colorado before elected officials gather up the gumption to do it themselves.

At least Bruce Benson is looking ahead.

As The Post put it: Benson couldn't "wait and hope everything will turn out OK."

Colorado's elected officials ought to follow his example.