Thursday, June 28, 2012

Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Healthcare Act

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 9:52 AM

In something of a surprise to most SCOTUS observers and pundits, the Supreme Court has upheld "Obamacare," including its most controversial element, the individual insurance mandate.

There was some initial confusion, as CNN and Fox News originally reported that the mandate had been overturned. Here's a pretty good summary of the decision from Huffington Post.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority decision, which carried by a 5-4 vote.

(My own somewhat specious theory for the surprising vote is that the rest of the SCOTUS judges are tired of Justice Scalia's incessant political posturings under the guise of dissenting opinions and decided to piss him off, just for giggles.)

Also, the Washington Post has just put up an excellent interactive post that you can fill out to learn how the new healthcare law will affect you personally.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Commercial Appeal Names New Publisher

Posted By on Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Well, that was quick. After severing ties with former publisher Joe Pepe last week, the Scripps Corporation said a new publisher would be announced within "weeks." They beat that deadline, at least, by naming George H. Cogwell III the new CA publisher Thursday.
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According to a short Scripps press release on the CA website, Cogswell has most recently served as publisher of the Ventura (California) County Star.

Here's Cogswell's executive profile from Businessweek.com: George H. Cogswell, III has been President and Publisher of the Abilene (Texas) Reporter-News of Ew Scripps Co., The. since February 1, 2005. Mr. Cogswell serves as President of BRV, Inc. He serves as President and Publisher of the Star of The E. W. Scripps Company. He served as Director of Circulation and Marketing Services for the Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers in Florida of EW Scripps Co. Mr. Cogswell moved to Abilene after serving two years leading the circulation and marketing efforts for the three Scripps Treasure Coast newspapers - The Stuart News, The Tribune in Fort Pierce and the Press Journal in Vero Beach. He served as circulation director of the Scripps-owned Wichita Falls (Texas) Times Record News from 1997 to 2000. Before joining The Ew Scripps Co., Mr. Cogswell worked from 1993 to 1996 for Freedom Communications, first at Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers newspaper in Fort Pierce (before it was acquired by Scripps) and then at Freedom''s Colorado Springs (Colo.) Gazette Telegraph. He served as an Assistant Circulation Director and then circulation director for The Tribune before accepting the position of subscriber sales and retention manager in Colorado Springs. Mr. Cogswell began his newspaper career in 1985 as a district circulation manager at the Middlesex News in Framingham, Mass. From 1986 to 1993 he held various positions in the circulation department at the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette and served as circulation director for The Call in Woonsocket R.I. Mr. Cogswell is a graduate of the Scripps Leadership Institute.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Joe Pepe: He Had a Plan

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2012 at 12:21 PM

Recently departed Commercial Appeal publisher Joe Pepe came to Memphis in 2006 with big plans for the paper. Chris Davis' cover story on Pepe is interesting to read in hindsight.
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Friday, June 15, 2012

How Delta Continues to Do Memphis

Posted By on Fri, Jun 15, 2012 at 10:39 AM

I've been following with some interest the story arc of the controversy surrounding Delta Airlines' price-gouging of the Memphis market. People have been griping about Delta's airfares to and from Memphis for months, but the story got legs about six weeks back, when local blogger and former county official Tom Jones started a Facebook group called “Delta Does Memphis.” Within a week, the group had more than 4,000 members, most of them with horror stories of Delta fares that were double and triple the price of Delta fares to the same cities from elsewhere around the country.

I wrote a column about it. The Flyer followed up the next week with John Branston's cover story interview with Jones. The local television media jumped in, as did The Commercial Appeal, the Memphis News, and the Memphis Business Journal.

In response to the controversy, the Airport Authority created its own Facebook page, which never got much traction — or members. Chamber of Commerce president John Moore wrote a piece in the CA that suggested the problem was high fuel prices and “market forces.” Irate letter writers and DDM Facebook members pointed out the obvious: Fuel prices aren't higher in Memphis than they are in Little Rock or Nashville. “Market forces,” as in “Delta has no competition in Memphis and is taking advantage of that fact” made a lot more sense. But still, the public wanted to know, what can be done about it?

As the controversy gained momentum, the Airport Authority, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau announced they would hold a “forum” to discuss the issue. It was held Thursday morning. CA editor Chris Peck (who did not help his journalism cred by playing moderator man for this gig) read questions that had been selected from those submitted by the public to the panelists — John Moore of the Chamber, Larry Cox of the Airport Authority, Kevin Kane of the CVB, an airline trade magazine publisher, and a representative from the American Association of Airport Executives. Most panelists continued to blame fuel prices — which have come down considerably since last fall — as one of the problems. The consensus of the panel seemed to be "not much we can do about it, right now." There was no real acknowledgement by the panel of the driving force behind the public's anger: Delta's obvious gouging of the Memphis market with inordinately high fares.

To say the forum fell flat, would be an understatement, at least if comments on the DDM Facebook page are any indication. No one was allowed to speak except the panelists. It was a tone-deaf, old-school response to a grassroots movement sparked by social media and motivated citizens. It was the kind of response Hosni Mubarak might have come up with. It was a circling of the wagons by three groups that are inextricably entwined through the good ol' boy network.

To wit: The CVB CEO is Kevin Kane. Included on the CVB board are Larry Cox, who heads the Airport Authority and John Moore, who heads the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber board president is Larry Cox. On the COC board are Kevin Kane and Arnold Perl, who also serves as secretary and COC general counsel. Perl is also president of the Airport Authority board, and Moore, who is a former airlines executive, serves on the Airport Authority board. It's quite the daisy chain, and makes it obvious why these organizations are unlikely to be critical of each other.

Let me be clear that I don't think Kane, Moore, Cox, and Perl are bad people, or that they are doing anything unethical. It's business as usual in Memphis, which is all about relationships and who you know. But the system obviously needs a shakeup — fresh blood and fresh ideas on the boards, to say the least.

High airfares are hurting Memphis business and tourism and convention business. Shouldn't the Chamber president and the CVB president be putting pressure on the Airport Authority to try to fix the situation with Delta, rather than lining up with them in a united front? I think so. So do a lot of very influential business leaders in Memphis.

But it's become obvious that unless and until our business leaders and our political leaders — the mayors, local representatives, senators, etc. — take some sort of proactive stance, Delta will continue to “do” Memphis every day.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Memphis is Manly, Dammit!

Posted By on Thu, Jun 14, 2012 at 11:31 AM

Yes, it's yet another in the seemingly unending barrage of city rankings that spiral out onto the Internet these days. But, cheer up, Memphians. Today, we learn that the Bluff City is bad-ass! That's right, we're the THIRD-MANLIEST city in America.

Don't mess with us, other cities. We will kick your manicured butt! Especially you, 50th-ranked San Diego. And San Francisco, yeah, you too, with your 49th-ranked San Francisco wussiness.

So who's number one? Uh, Oklahoma City. Ooops, sorry, Grizzlies. Might be a long season next year.

Here's the latest silliness.

Memphis tough guy, Steven Seagal.
  • Memphis tough guy, Steven Seagal.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Memphis is Second-Cheapest Place to Live in America

Posted By on Tue, Jun 12, 2012 at 3:59 PM

Hey, Memphis, we're the second-cheapest place to live in America, right behind the thriving metropolis of Harlingen, Texas. This is according to the results of a survey conducted by the The Street and reaggregated at Huffington Post.

Memphis is by far the largest city among the Top 10, so we got that going for us. Surely there's a way we should be spinning this to our advantage, right? Here's the link.

About That Chamber/CVB Airport Public Forum ...

Posted By on Tue, Jun 12, 2012 at 1:54 PM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

***MEDIA ADVISORY***

DETAILS ON THE AIRPORT SERVICES FORUM PANELISTS

WHAT: The Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Greater Memphis Chamber and the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau have convened recognized experts in their field and leaders in three major organizations for an on-the-record discussion of the factors affecting air travel, airports and air fares and invites Memphis citizens to attend and to participate.

The panelists include:

Seth Kaplan, managing partner of Airline Weekly

Chip Barclay, president of the American Association of Airport Executives

Phillip Braden, manager at Federal Aviation Administration

Larry Cox, president and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority

John Moore, president and CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber

Kevin Kane, president and CEO of the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau

Moderator: Chris Peck, editor of The Commercial Appeal

Q&A:

Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions by writing them down on index cards during the event. The index cards will then be collected and given to the moderator to group together and to make sure as many as possible are addressed. The moderator will call on designated panelists (determined by moderator) to answer the question. Index cards and pencils will be provided. For those not attending the forum, questions will also be pulled from twitter and Facebook. On twitter, use #MyMemAirport so your questions can be easily found. Post your questions on the Facebook Group: My Memphis Airport. A live stream of the event will be on the chamber’s website: www.memphischamber.com.

WHEN: Thursday, June 14th, 2012, 10:30—11:30 a.m.

WHERE: Christian Brothers University University Theater

MEDIA: Open/avail -- The panelists will be available for questions following the discussion.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Detroit Photo Diary

Posted By on Mon, Jun 11, 2012 at 12:22 PM

The Association of Alternative Newsmedia held its annual convention in Detroit last week. A very strange city, indeed, and one with a downtown that makes downtown Memphis look like Paris. There are lots of architectural masterworks, most of which are empty shells. There is no retail to speak of, very few restaurants, maybe one or two coffee shops, if you know where to look.

There is magnificent public art — statuary, fountains — and lovely landscaping, with fresh plantings, flowers, ornamental trees, and a nice downtown ballpark. But there are few people on the sidewalks — a fact that is magnified at night. Three large casinos appear to some draw folks in, but a look around inside shows that penny slots are the dominant game of choice. A city that was once home to 2.5 million people now has a population of 700,000. And boy, are they spread out. I'll write more in my column this week, but here are a few photos I took ...

Continue reading »

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