Friday, December 21, 2007

You're Screwed! You owe the feds $450,000

Entitlement Programs are Swamping Ship of State

GAO Chief: Medicare and Social Security face $53 trillion deficit

Massive tax increases likely

You should probably forget about buying that new house, car, kitchen gadget, sex toy, roll of toilet paper, box of corn flakes or whatever, because you--every American--are in massive debt and won't be able to afford anything. And we're not talking about your current mortgages or credit card bills. No. The federal government's reckless spending on more and more entitlement programs is so pervasive that just keeping Medicare and Social Security solvent for the next 20 years will require an extra $53 trillion!

So says David Walker, comptroller general of the United States and head of the Government Accountability Office, the non-partisan watchdog of federal government and the nation's finances. In a report this week called A Call for Stewardship, Walker detailed the horrible state of the nation's financial affairs.

"If the (page 1) federal government were a private corporation and the same report came out this morning, our stock would be dropping and there would be talk about whether the company's management and directors needed a major shake-up," Walker says.

"Candidly, ( page 2) our current deficit and debt levels are not unduly troubling as a percentage of our national economy. However, these deficit levels and related debt burdens are set to escalate dramatically in the near future due to the retirement of the 'baby boomers' and rising health care costs. The fact is, absent any meaningful reforms, America faces escalating deficit levels and debt burdens that could swamp our ship of state!

"This brings me to the longer-range picture. Believe it or not, the federal government's total liabilities and unfunded commitments for future benefits payments promised under the current Social Security and Medicare programs are now estimated at $53 trillion, in current dollar terms, up from $20 trillion in 2000. This translates into a defacto mortgage of about $450,000 for every American household and there's no house to back this mortgage! In other words, our government has made a whole lot of promises that, in the long run, it cannot possibly keep without huge tax increases."

Walker goes on in the report to explain what most Americans don't realize and haven't taken the time to understand: that Social Security--the retirement program that just about every American depends on--has been ripped off by your congresspeople and senators. The program constantly runs a surplus, but rather than investing that money and letting it earn interest for you and me, congresses and presidents have spent it. In effect, they've gone into your cookie jar, taken your money, and left you a worthless IOU.

Here's how Walker explains it:

"After all, the federal government spends the entire Social Security surplus on various government operating expenses and replaces the cash with government bonds held in so-called government 'trust funds.' Given their structure, in my view, they should be called 'trust the government funds.'"

If that's not scary enough, listen to this about how much of the federal budget goes to entitlement programs:

"If trillions of dollars aren't big enough to get your attention, believe it or not, in fiscal 2007 over 62 percent of the federal budget was on 'auto pilot' and this percentage is on the rise! Shockingly, the major functions expressly envisioned by our Founding Fathers as a proper role for the federal government--things like national defense, homeland security, foreign policy, the treasury function, the federal judiciary, the Congress and the Executive Office of the President--are in the remaining 38 percent of the federal budget! And this portion of the budget is set to get squeezed."

Walker says that most Americans are in denial about their and their government's dismal financial situations.

"Unfortunately, many Americans are in denial about the seriousness of our situation," he says. "Relatively low interest rates and modest inflation rates are partly to blame for this false sense of security. The truth is, too many American families are following the poor financial practices employed by the federal government. They're spending more money than they make, taking on more debt and incurring compounding interest costs. Both America and many Americans have become addicted to debt both in good times and bad."

Read the report; it's only 10 pages. And then start asking your idiot, pandering, spineless senators and congresspeople what they're going to do about the situation.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Criminal Consumer

Shop or Else!

He was kicking and screaming as the two beefy, snarling security guards were dragging him to the front of the store.

“Another despicable shoplifter,” I mumbled to myself. “Probably stealing deodorant, discount underwear and Slim Jims.”

Or DVDs or socks or blinds or tires or paint thinner, as we were in one of those gigantic superstores that sell everything from motor oil to powdered milk.

The guards were being just a little rough with him, and, shocked and outraged by their behavior, I yelled in protest:

“I don’t care how poor this deadbeat is. He needs a good head cracking. Stop coddling him! Crack his ribs, put him in a chokehold and bust his thumbs. The hell with his civil liberties! Where’s a cop when you need one?

“His thievery is cutting into profits of the corporation that owns this store. The company has enough sinister behavior to deal with; its greed-obsessed employees are demanding health insurance, a wage that keeps them off food stamps, and that they be paid for all the hours they work. The spoiled brats know little of and care nothing for the dignity that comes from working long hours at low wages. The selfish wage earners are devoid of concern for the anguish and trauma that rich, Wall Street investors suffer when the company’s stock price falls by an eighth of a cent and wrecks their profit-taking plans. If thieves like him steal all the profits, those wealthy investors won’t be able to afford a second or third yacht. If this slob can’t afford stuff, he should get a second job.”

“But I have three jobs and I still can’t satisfy them,” the guy, who had heard me talking to myself, wailed as they dragged him past. “You don’t understand. I haven’t shoplifted. I’ve never stolen a thing in my life.”

Then he shot me the saddest, most bewildered and frightened look I’d ever seen—even worse than the ones liberals get when they hear the words “tax cuts”—and said:

“I just bought what I needed. Nothing more.”

Just what I needed,” one of the security guards sneered contemptuously as he handed the guy over to a waiting cop. “If everyone shopped as little as you this corporation would be ruined. Drag his sorry ass down to the lockup and keep it there.”

“What is he being charged with?” I asked.

“Failure to unnecessarily and recklessly consume,” a cop yelled.

“That’s a crime?” I asked.

“It is now in America.”

“On what grounds are you charging him? What’s your evidence?”

The cops and the guards walked me to where they had confronted the guy. In the middle of the 300-yard-long aisle was a lone shopping cart where the store manager was angrily taking an inventory of its contents.

“Look at this; it’s not even half-full,” the manager said with disgust. “He’s got bar soap, laundry detergent, bread, milk, lunch meat, a pair of socks, razor blades, and, get this, jars for home canning! He was going to can his own food at home instead of buying it! That’s sick. It’s immoral and it’s unpatriotic. This guy consumes and spends like a sissy.”

“Look at this cart. It contains not one electronic organizer or phone book, not one bread machine, espresso machine, salad shooter, food processor; not a single pasta machine, individual wine cooler, pancake maker, plasma TV, video game, hamburger patty maker, hotdog cooker, battery-powered corkscrew, smoothie machine, deep fryer, individual egg cooker, pasta pot, convection oven, computer controlled toaster, water purifier, juicer, crepe pan, ice cream maker, soft ice cream dispenser, vegetable steamer, sectioned frying pan, bagel slicer, high-powered blender, individual blender, rotisserie, coffee bean grinder, electric toothbrush, nuclear-powered hair dryer; not one portable abdomen toner, bicep builder, butt reducer or thigh enhancer; not one treadmill, stair stepper, home gym; not a single sonar fish-finder; not one digital camera or home photo-printing machine, not a single cell phone on which he can get stock quotes and play solitaire, not nothing!

“And look those razor blades! Double-edged blades! He’s still using an old fashioned razor. He hasn’t upgraded in forty years. We’ve now got battery-powered razors with fourteen blades, seven strips of skin-soothing gel, a small screen on which you can read email, a head that vibrates, rotates – hell, this thing will even mow the lawn. And it only costs eighty-nine bucks.

“It’s not just his weak shopping that concerns us. We checked his credit report. He’s got two credit cards – not seven he should have – that he pays off monthly. He doesn’t run a balance. This man has refused to max out his two measly credit cards!

“This man is not only a disgrace; he’s a traitor!”

“Maybe he doesn’t need all that stuff,” I offered meekly and with a changed attitude.

“Need! It’s not a question of need. It’s a question of supporting the global economy and making investors rich,” the manager stammered. “If we all bought what we merely needed this economy would collapse.”

“They don’t consume like this in Europe,” I said.

“Of course they don’t. And they don’t work seventy hour weeks like we do so we can buy all this stuff. That’s why they all get six weeks paid vacation, pensions, all kinds of holidays and government-paid-for health care. Is that what you want?

“Americans are the world’s consumers of last resort. We’re born and bred to shop, spend money and get into massive debt. That’s who and what we are: shoppers and debtors. The money you make isn’t yours; it belongs to the government and to corporations and their wealthy CEOs. Government takes your money through taxes, and now we’re taking it by mandating that you buy things.”

“Well, you can make pancakes and crepes in a regular frying pan. A lot of the stuff we buy isn’t needed.”

“Tell that to the guy who invented the individual hotdog cooker, his investors and the people who run this corporation!” the manager screamed. “What are you going to buy here today!”

“Nothing. I don’t need anything. I—”

“You what?”

“I don’t need anything.”


I was clubbed, cuffed and thrown into the squad car with the other guy and taken off to jail.

Then I woke up, sweaty and terrified.

“It was just a dream,” I told myself. “That can’t happen. Not in America.”

But I wasn’t so sure.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Steroids in Baseball; So What!

We all use performance enhancers

Do implants make a breast less grabbable?

Do I have to point it out again that we're a drugged-up nation where just about everybody does or uses something to enhance their performance? Obviously I do.

The hysterics--at least among sportscasters and radio talk show hosts--surrounding the long-awaited Steroids in Baseball report are sickening, especially when they come from wusses who've probably never swung a bat. So let's go through some of the things we all do to enhance our performances.

Do you wear contacts or eye glasses, or have you had lasik surgery? If you do or if you had, you're enhancing your performance. God obviously didn't give you perfect eyes, so any attempt to correct flawed vision is an obvious attempt to enhance your performance.

--Breast implants. Jesus. Shouldn't under-endowed women stay as unattractive as God made them? By enlarging their boobs they're lying to potential boyfriends or girlfriends, and, obviously using artificial means to enhance their looks. Do implants make a boob less grabable? Would one of these self-righteous TV, newspaper or radio sports goofs stand on principal and refrain from fondling an enhanced breast? Many famous porn stars have had breast implants. Do those souped-up boobs make their on-screen gyrations any less authentic or enjoyable?

--Push-up bras. Saggy, baggy boobs aren't as attractive as plump, pushed-up ones. That's why tens of millions of women use these garments to artificially enhance their looks.

--Hair dye and makeup. Sports broadcasters, especially the goofs on TV, slather their faces and hair in makeup and dye, all in an effort to make themselves look younger or to hide hideous blemishes or moles. If some of these creatures actually appeared on-air without makeup, the viewing public would be horrified and would turn them off. Makeup and hair dye are performance enhancers. You don't hear these performance-enhancing goofs denouncing themselves, do you? Of course not; they're hypocrites.

--Nicotine. Where would we be without this performance-enhancing drug? Mark Twain, America's greatest writer, wrote his great novels through clouds of bluish-grey cigar smoke. He nearly always had a cigar in his mouth. Should we remove Twain's books from stores and libraries because he wrote them with a boost from nicotine? Or should we put asterisks next to his books to let children know that, because they were written with aid of a thought-enhancing substance, they are less credible?

Sigmund Freud, the greatest shrink of all time, and one of the world's greatest thinkers ever, refused to stop smoking cigars--even after part of his jaw had been removed because of mouth cancer--because he wanted to keep his mind sharp, and he knew that nicotine helped keep it that way. At the height of his career Freud was smoking 20 cigars a day. Does that make his ideas and the books he wrote less valid?

--Cold medicine. Americans pop billions of pills every year so they can keep working or playing then they have colds. They take pills to stop the sniffles, reduce their fevers and stop their disgusting sneezing. Why do they refuse to let those colds run their natural course, which is seven to ten days? Because they wouldn't be as effective at work or at play if they were dripping mucus and sneezing all over their co-workers, clients and bosses. Are the decisions and the performances of people on cold medicine invalid because they used this performance enhancer? Are people who use cold medicine cheating? What about their wheezing co-workers who don't mind taking a few sick days when ill? Aren't cold- pill-poppers giving themselves an unfair, artificial advantage over their colleagues who stay home when sick?

--Exercise. It's unnatural to lift weights, do sit-ups, jog, sweat in saunas and steam rooms, swim and spend endless hours on treadmills. But we do these unnatural things so we will look buffed and healthy and convince some other svelte creature to get between the sheets with us. Isn't it unfair for a ripped, steel-abbed hunk who exercises three hours a day to bed a sexy, slithering, oiled-up babe, while the beer-bellied, chip-munching slug who refuses to engage in performance-enhancing activities like exercise is stuck amusing himself?

--Copy editors. Many sports writers can't write, can't spell and are imbeciles when it comes to grammar. The stuff they turn into their papers is often incoherent. Armies of editors and copy editors have to rewrite their garbage and correct their misspellings and grammatical mistakes so the pieces will resemble something that people might want to, and actually can, read. In their natural state, most sports "writers" are idiots who can't write. The layer of editors who turn their copy into readable stuff are performance enhancers. Yet you don't hear these idiots clamoring to outlaw the very unnatural reasons for their success.

Here are a few other performance-enhancing substances and things that will never be denounced by the smug writers, broadcasters and talk show hosts:

--Shoes. We weren't born with them, but they get us further and over more terrain than will our bare feet.

--Haircuts, razors and shaving cream. Without these unnatural things we'd still look like cavemen.

--Soap. This substance doesn't exist in nature. Shame on all of us for trying to cleanse ourselves of all the dirt, grime and natural body substances that cling to us. We're all asterisks.

--Clothes. We weren't born with these, either. They hide our hideous bodies, keep us warm and cool and protect us from bugs. They are unnatural and enhance our performance. JUst try playing ice hockey naked.

--Mouthwash, toothpaste and toothbrushes. Breathe on someone without using these unnatural, performance-enhancing products and see where you get.

--Combs and hair brushes. What's wrong with just running your fingers through your hair?


--Watches. Can't any of you goofs tell the time by the position of the sun in the sky?

--Antibiotics. You get sick, you get sick. If your body can't fight off disease and bacteria, why should you be allowed to live with the aid of these manufactured substances?

--Light bulbs. Why should you be able to see and work once the sun goes down?

--Paper. This doesn't exist in nature.

--Tools and weapons. Man invented these things. Without them we'd be unable to build shelter and kill animals for food. Unnatural, unnatural, unnatural!

--Viagra and hair pieces.

I could go on, but I won't. It's obvious that these hypocritical losers are hypocritical losers.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Property Tax Scam on Eye on New Mexico

Eye on New Mexico, December 9, 2007 -- Part 1

Dennis and Nicole discuss the increase of property taxes across New Mexico with tax expert Tim Eichenberg and New Mexico State Senator Mark Boitano. To view the discussion, click on the video player on the right. To watch part one, click here.

Nuns Would Have Beaten Hillary Sensless

Old School Catholic nuns never would have let Hillary Clinton lie and evade questions

Gary Kolba was battered silly by the time it was over. The seventh-grader’s neck and face were scratched, in some places heavily enough so that specks of blood trickled from the streaks of raw skin. His head, although full of brown hair, was bumpy from the beating he had received from the pair of bony, 70-year-old fists.

Sister Mary Zita, a tottering, shrunken, old nun with wrinkled, scaly skin, was out of breath, but she had seen to it that Kolba would never again dare do what he had just tried getting away with.

It wasn’t over, though, for Kolba, a tall, goofy-grinned smart-aleck who thought he could pull one over on the elderly nun. Sister Mary Francis de Sales had heard the commotion coming from room 204 at Our Lady of Grace grammar school and hurried over from her room to investigate. Sister Zita angrily sputtered to Sister de Sales what Kolba had done. Sister de Sales, a large, stout, lumbering nun who admired Green Bay Packers middle linebacker Ray Nitschke, trudged over to Kolba, and in front of the class, yanked his hair with her left hand and remorselessly pounded his skinny back with the underside of her ham-like right forearm.

As Kolba staggered back to his desk, Sister de Sales sternly informed the class why he had been beaten to a pulp and why he would get more of the same if he persisted in his insulting and unacceptable behavior.

“When you are asked a question,” she bellowed, “you answer it directly and honestly.”

Never again did Kolba, when asked who the fifth president of the United States was, or when asked to spell “magazine,” launch into a rambling denunciation of Christopher Columbus, colonialism or the superiority of spelling words the way they sounded. He had learned his lesson: When asked a question, you answer it directly and honestly.

It’s too bad that Sisters Zita and de Sales, or any Catholic nun from the 1940s through the early 1960s, aren’t the moderators for today’s presidential and other political “debates.” If they were we wouldn’t have the likes of Hillary Clinton or any other presidential candidate ducking, dodging, evading and otherwise refusing to answer simple, straightforward questions. If they did, they’d be beaten with fists, wooden pointers, steel-edged rulers and anything else the nuns could get their hands on. And we’d all be better off for it.

There’s a disgraceful epidemic in the U.S. of politicians at the national, state and local levels refusing to answer even the simplest questions. It has become political strategy to evade and prevaricate. Politicians and their consultants now believe it’s their duty and right to deflect and avoid answering questions. They shriek that anyone who presses for an honest answer to the simplest query is a demented, insensitive and unprofessional jerk. Sadly, this sick and twisted joke on the American public has been working.

When Hillary Clinton was recently asked about her flip-flops on the war in Iraq she rambled on for three minutes about Social Security. When NBC’s Tim Russert, not the hardest hitting guy around, asked her about releasing documents about her reign as First Power Grabber in husband Bill’s White House, she fumbled and bumbled and refused to answer. Same thing when she was asked about giving drivers licenses to illegal aliens. When Russert pressed for an answer, Clinton became miffed.

The day after the “debate,” Clinton’s operatives started spreading the line that Russert was a crazed, female-hating bully who deserved to be shot—deserved to be shot—for demanding a direct answer to a simple question.

Millions of Americans actually think that Clinton and her pals are right in saying that Russert was wrong in believing that he deserved an honest answer from someone seeking the world’s highest office and to head what was founded as a government of the people, by the people and for the people. They think he’s a perverted freak for daring to ask her anything other than, “Tell us, Mrs. Clinton, how is it you became so brilliant and we so deserving of your rule?” They think that she was perfectly right in dodging, obfuscating, evading and being purposefully and blatantly dishonest.

The fault of elevating sneakiness and dishonesty to an expected, accepted and protected level is all of ours. We’re the fools who sheepishly nod our heads when an idiot politician shouts that we’ve got to “get our arms around our problems” without ever detailing what those problems are and exactly how they should be solved.

We’re the dopes who stomp our feet, whistle and scream in adoring approval when one of these professional panderers tells our group that our concerns, no matter how trivial and single-issued they are, are paramount to everything else that confronts the nation and threatens human liberty.

We’re the idiots who cheer the lies and scorn the truth.

Most of all, though, the fault of this sick situation is that of the people in the news media—the celebrity-obsessed TV and newspaper reporters who’ve let the politicians get away with this garbage for way too long. It used to be that reporters—the eyes, ears and voice of the public—believed in and lived by the creed of “without fear or favor.” They were well informed people who were loyal to the truth as best as they could discern it, and cared nothing about being liked by the people they covered. They were equal opportunity offenders who asked tough questions of all candidates, no mater what their party affiliation.

Somewhere that changed. Instead of being proud, snarling, solitary watchdogs who took pride in not being liked, and who would have spit out mouthfuls of cheap whiskey and coughed up lungfuls of unfiltered cigarette smoke if offered membership into any club, they’ve morphed into pathetic lapdogs whose only desire is to be liked by the idiots, liars, morons and plastic-faced hypocrites they cover. In their effort to be liked and invited to celebrity parties, they turned into sissified wimps who refused to challenge an unanswered question or an outright perversion of the facts.

The politicians and celebrities approved and invited the docile losers to cheese and champagne parties. The wimps, eager for more approval, willingly had their teeth replaced with marshmallows, and their brains with invitations to more parties if they just behaved and let the non-answers and lies go by without challenge.

That’s where these politicians got the idea that they are entitled to refuse to answer questions that are important to the survival of democracy and human freedom.

Hillary Clinton’s self-deluded supporters might think it’s perfectly appropriate to shoot someone who dares to demand that their hero honestly answer a simple question, instead of dissembling and evading it. That’s their right.

But I can tell you this: Before they ever could have pulled their guns on those nuns, Sisters Zita and de Sales would have beaten them senseless.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Global Warming Update!

More evidence for Al Gore!

Oklahoma digs out from ice storm

Kansas gets a foot of snow

Wintry Blast Moves East

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma residents were mostly spared a threatened second wintry blast on Saturday, as crews were still working to restore power to homes and businesses blacked out by last weekend's storm.

Neighboring Kansas, however, had up to a foot of snow Saturday morning as the storm took aim across the Midwest into New England.

Hundreds of thousands of people were still in the dark in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.

The major winter storm today will spread heavy snow from the central Plains to the Northeast, with rain and thunderstorms to the south. Tonight, the system will erupt into a powerful nor'easter that will pummel the Northeast on Sunday.

According to the Midwest Regional News story, heavy snow today will fall across the central Plains into the Midwest and the lower Great Lakes. A wintry mix of precipitation will spread through the Ohio Valley, while drenching rain could renew flooding problems in the Tennessee Valley.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Abq. Journal Suffers Big Circulation Slide

U.S. Newspaper Decline Continues

While lots of people in town are wondering whether The Albuquerque Tribune, because of its worse-than-anemic 9,900 paid circulation, will be killed of by the E.W. Scripps Co., few have talked about the circulation slide at Albuquerque’s morning newspaper, the Albuquerque Journal.

The paper’s circulation took a major hit in the six month reporting period that ended September 30th. According to figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the firm that tracks newspaper and magazine circulation, the Journal’s Monday-Friday circulation took a 3.8 percent hit, falling from 105,966 to 101,981. It’s even worse on Sundays, where circulation fell by 4.5 percent, from 146,931 to 140,395. The Journal’s Saturday circulation fell as well, dropping 3 percent from 111,951 to 108,658.

That circulation decline probably comes as no surprise to people who believe the Journal has always been an amateurish publication that often launches editor-driven smear jobs against people they don't like. And it's no doubt welcome news to those who fear a world without The Tribune to balance and correct what the Journal gets wrong, botches and smears.

The Journal isn’t alone in suffering a big circulation decline; daily newspaper circulation has been falling steadily since 1990. In the last reporting period, major dailies in the U.S. suffered a 2.6 percent average circulation decline. The Wall Street Journal was down 1.53 percent, the New York Times fell by 4.51 percent, and the Dallas Morning News dropped a whopping 7.68 percent.

The Tribune's circulation, which has been falling for more than 15 years, dropped to below 10,000.

In many ways, newspapers, meaning the paper product, are obsolete. They certainly are when it comes to delivering breaking news. They can’t compete with TV, radio and the Internet. When you read the Albuquerque Journal in the morning, you’re getting 18-hour-old news. Who wants that?

Papers have web sites, but those sites can’t generate the kinds of revenue that lumps of paper filled with classified ads can. And, newspapers were beaten to the punch by web entrepreneurs (Craig’s List) in trying to generate classified ad revenue on the Internet.

Circulation is important because papers base their advertising rates on the number of copies sold. Sell fewer copies and advertisers will want reduced ad rates. That means fewer profits, and thus fewer staffers, for papers. Don't cry, though, for newspaper companies or their investors. Newspapers have always had double-digit profit margins, often in the 20 to 30 percent range, and they remain profitable.

The Great Newspaper Circulation decline began in 1980, according to reports, when there were 1,745 daily papers in the U.S. In 2002, there were 1,457 dailies left, a 17 percent drop. Daily circulation peaked at more than 60 million in 1980. By 2002 it had fallen to 55 million.

Nowhere has the situation been grimmer than with afternoon papers. In the mid-1970s, afternoon daily circulation was 33 million. By 2004 it had dropped to less than seven million.
The really bad news for newspapers is that their market penetration has been steadily declining. In 1950, 123 percent of U.S. households bought newspapers, in other words, there were 1.23 papers sold per household. By 1990, only 67 percent of U.S. households bought a paper. By 2000 it had dropped to 53 percent.

People still crave news; they just don’t see newspapers as the way to get it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Tribune's Psychosis

A Few Reasons The Tribune Failed

Editors were self-absorbed screwballs

It’s tough being involved with a psycho.

The sideshows are hilarious, memorable and worth the price of the relationship; the highs are manic and delirious, but never as long as they should be; and the lows are morose, seemingly infinite, and just plain debilitating.

The smart thing to do with a nut case is to leave—not even a minimally sane person can long endure—and be grateful you survived the mess.

But the crazy thing is that you never really do leave a disturbed partner. Get word that the source of all that pain and pleasure will soon be dead, and all those wonderful and horrific memories deluge the mind.

I was involved for 13 years with a psychotic cohort. Within a few weeks that partner will be probably be forever gone from this planet, and rather than cheering and popping a few cold ones in celebration, I’m secretly aching for one more shouting match, one more round of bitter accusations and hateful counter-charges, one more mad dance around the ballroom floor, one last dysfunctional fling.

My psycho was The Albuquerque Tribune, this city’s 80-year-old afternoon daily newspaper, which could soon be shutting down forever. Many people probably don’t even know The Trib exists. Almost no one reads it anymore. In 1985 its circulation was a respectable 46,000. Today it’s 9,900.

In the coming days and weeks you’ll hear a lot from former and current Trib staffers about what a great paper it was, what great journalism it did, what noble causes it pursued and what a terrible loss its demise is to Albuquerque and New Mexico. That’s all true, even though journalists are experts at pontificating about their own importance.

What you’ll never hear about in all those self-serving interviews is what an asylum The Trib was, and how, through the efforts of too many self-absorbed, spoiled, elitist brats and whacked out management, the newspaper imploded on itself. So here are a few stories:


In 1994 that almost became the official cry—the identifying yelp—of every Tribune employee. I know I was tempted to gustily shout it out when called on to ask questions at news conferences and such. Imagine how it would have sounded:

“Yodaladyhoo! Yodaladyhoo! Yodaladyhoo!”

Over the years, Tribune editors bought into every new management scheme—I think, during one five-year period, they attended every management seminar held in North America—and foisted the ideas, especially the most bizarre ones, on us. Every four or five months they reorganized the newsroom and adopted new designs that only alienated longtime readers.

Once, the editors did away with beats—which are the heart of any credible news organization—and put reporters and editors into breaking news and enterprise teams. We were pulled out of the buildings we covered and told to sit in the main office and hunt down news. Well, since you don’t find stories in a newspaper office, we didn’t get any, and the editors couldn’t understand why our circulation continued to fall.

After that failed, we were told to cover the city by “ologies”—phychology, garbgology, sociology and the like. We never did cover neurology, which would have given us valuable insights into why editors came up with such dumb ideas.

Later we were put into teams and told to compete against each other. One “team leader” dragged her “team members” to her Placitas home for meetings where they spent hours telling themselves how smart and important they were, how they would set the agenda for the city, engorging themselves on fresh squeezed juice and planning what next month’s news would be. That team did meetings like no other team, but they rarely got any stories into the paper. That didn’t matter, though, because at that time the editors believed that a reporter’s highest calling was, not to be out working a beat and pounding the pavement looking for stories, but to sit in meetings. I’m surprised that we never did get around to covering the city by shoe size, but I’m sure the idea was on several editors’ minds.

One time we were lined up in the newsroom—right after another management seminar—and breathlessly informed that, henceforth, we would be communicating with each other like dolphins. None of us reporters knew what the editors were talking about, and so we stood there looking and feeling stupid. Finally, some wise guy blurted out, “Eeeeeee! Eeeeeee! Eeeeeee!” We all busted out laughing, and that was the last we ever heard about talking to each other like dolphins.

Most people, when they think about newspapers, envision words on paper—lots of black words. Not The Tribune’s editors and designers. For a two-year period in the 1990s they were obsessed with using “white space” as a design element. That is, they purposely left white spaces all over the paper. That, of course, meant shorter stories and fewer words, but they didn’t care. The twenty-and-thirty-something editors wanted to create art. We figured their secret goal was to put out a paper with no words—just blank pages. They would have succeeded had readers not rebelled and demanded to know what was going on at the nuthouse.

The Trib’s great circulation slide began in 1986 when the editors and the paper’s owners bought into a study to totally redesign the paper. The study was done by a couple of college professors out of Tucson who claimed that readers no longer wanted to read stories about the governments that taxed them and passed laws that affected their lives. Readers, the profs said, wanted more happy stories about happy people.

When The New Tribune was launched that year it was done so with the profs’ crowning recommendation: NO SPORTS SECTION!

We never did find out which readers the profs talked to for their study. It was clear, though, that it wasn’t the six thousand subscribers who canceled the paper within two weeks of The New Tribune’s launch.

The most insane restructuring plan came in 1994 when the genius editors decided that we would no longer be reporters, editors, photographers, writers and designers. No, we were to be YODAS, FREERANGERS, MAESTROES and BIG DUDES! This is not a joke.

Reporters were to be Yodas, while editors were to be Maestroes; they would “maestro” a story through from beginning to end, whatever that meant. Who knows what the Freerangers were supposed to do. And what was the Big Dude’s job?

“The Big Dude,” a memo told us, “lifts the bar.”

They never got around to implementing that reorganization because, while it was in the planning stages, reporters got copies of it and leaked it to the newsroom. As nutty and as politically correct as The Tribune was, everyone who wasn’t an editor realized that this was the pinnacle of insanity.

There are lots of reasons why The Tribune is folding. No one reads afternoon papers any more. In 1975, afternoon daily newspaper circulation peaked at 33 million. Today it’s less than 7 million, and falling. Newspapers themselves are obsolete when it comes to breaking news. But if you want the main reason why the Tribune is going away, just shout it loudly and shout it proudly:


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pete Powdrell, the Barbeque Man

A story I wrote earlier this year for Accent Albuquerque magazine about Pete Powdrell. Pete died last week at age 86. He was an inspiration to everyone. Photo by Steve Bromberg, courtesy Accent Albuquerque. DD

After 37 years in the barbeque business and 85 years on this planet, Albuquerque’s barbeque extraordinaire Pete Powdrell is still trying to get better at his craft.

It’s a craft that has put untold millions of pounds of Powdrell prepared, slow-cooked, hickory-smoked beef, pork, ribs, chicken and sausage into the bellies of people all over the United States. It’s a craft that he learned from his grandfather Isaac Britt, who set the standard that Powdrell is still chasing after 37 years of operating Albuquerque’s premier barbeque joints.

“I learned this from my grandfather,” Powdrell explains as he recounts a life, business and skill that have brought to his family the blessings of friendship, livelihood, community and just plain fun.

“We lived on the farm and in the country, and we would have community and family get-togethers every month or two. He was the barbeque man, and I hung around him all the time. And I tell you, he could make a piece of wood good enough to eat. I still haven’t gotten that good, but I am getting better!”

Albuquerqueans who have visited the Mr. Powdrell’s Barbeque restaurants since 1969 and dined on those savory, succulent, smoky and saucy pieces of meat might disagree that Powdrell needs to learn more about slow-smoking meat. After all, every week, they glom down 2,000 pounds of beef, 1,000 pounds of ribs, 500 pounds of chicken and several hundred pounds of sausage that the people at Powdrell’s two restaurants lovingly prepare.

“We just cook it the old-fashioned way. We don’t do nothin’ special. We just give it time too cook,” Powdrell says. “We use wood. Everybody has forgotten how good wood makes food taste.”

What also might be forgotten, or perhaps not even known, is the inspiring story of how Powdrell and his late wife Catherine became Albuquerque’s premier rib and barbeque couple. It’s a story that involves risk, obstacles, love, community, faith, determination, honesty, hard work and a city that embraced an African American family from West Texas in the 1950s.

Powdrell and his wife had to work extremely hard to achieve their success. They just had to. He had only a third-grade education, and she finished only the seventh grade. They were married at an age that might shock today’s world. He was 18 and she was 14 when they both said “I do” on May 28, 1939. They had 11 kids, seven boys and four girls, at a time and in a place that was not supportive of African Americans. They came to Albuquerque—11 kids in tow—with agricultural and construction skills. And Powdrell started his business at age 48, an age when many people are beginning to think that they are on life’s downward slope.

“The state of Texas in the middle 1950s, you’re looking at segregation in the school system. You’re looking at limited jobs.” says Powdrell’s 60-year-old son Joe, “It was an agricultural community driven by cotton and oil, and my dad was a share cropper.”

Joe’s two older brothers attended segregated schools around the West Texas town of Crosbyton, about 36 miles east of Lubbock, where the Powdrells’ 11 children were born.

“They had the segregated schools,” Joe recalls. “My oldest brothers, in the eighth grade, they were in the segregated school. The buses would pick up the black children all along these little rural communities and take them to one school they designated 50 miles away. They were getting up a 4 o’clock in the morning to catch the bus to get to school by nine, and then they’d get back home at nine o’clock at night—learning absolutely nothing.”

There was a white school about a half a mile away from the Powdrells’ home, and the bus that took the black kids to their school actually drove past the white school.

It was an atmosphere that Mrs. Powdrell didn’t want for her children.

“Mom was a real aspiring person,” Joe says. “She wanted to go to school. She wanted to go to college. But in Texas, the cycle of agriculture cuts you off at about the seventh grade. My mom didn’t want her kids to duplicate that cycle. She saw the patterns, and she saw her daughters getting ready to repeat her life.”

So in 1958, Pete and Catherine, based on the advice of relatives who had already settled in Albuquerque, packed up the kids and everything they could take—it wasn’t much—into a 1956 Ford station wagon and a 1951 Ford one-and-a-half-ton truck and drove to Albuquerque to start a new life.

Twelve days after arriving, Pete had a job doing construction work for Bradbury & Stamm. It was no easy thing to support 11 kids, and so Powdrell worked other jobs on the weekends, as well.

“We worked for the King family, before Bruce was governor the first time,” Powdrell says. “He sold hay to people and we hauled it for them.”

Powdrell had, and still has, a work ethic that should get anyone through.

“When I came here, I didn’t pick my job,” Powdrell says. “Whatever I could do to get a bag of groceries, I did it—legally. No hanky-panky around here. Never has been and never will be. I used to go up to Glorieta to help build a church up there. I did that for a year-and-a-half. I had to be at work at 7:30 in the morning, and I was there, five days a week.”

Powdrell, like his grandfather, had always barbequed, and it was that sort of hobby cooking that eventually got him started in business.

“There was a little church and I want to give them full credit,” Powdrell says. “La Mesa Presbyterian Church. They had a young pastor there by the name of Stuart Coffman. He being an old Texas boy, he loved barbeque, and he had me cooking barbeque every year in March or April. They liked it, and by the fourth time, they got to talking to me and saying, ‘You can cook, you need to go into business. You can make a living because everybody loves your barbeque.”

With help from church members with things like insurance and legal matters, he opened his first restaurant on South Broadway in 1962. It lasted only a few months. But the business bug had hit, and seven years later, in 1969, the Powdrells opened a restaurant near Carlisle and Gibson.

It was a success, they eventually moved to a location on San Pedro a few blocks north of Gibson.

Over time, the family opened four restaurants (only two remain) and became a fixture at the New Mexico State Fair and various county and regional fairs around the state.

The secret to Powdrell’s signature flavor is the slow smoking method. At 200 degrees, it takes 17 hours to cook a 10-12-pound brisket, and 10-12 hours for ribs and chicken. The Powdrells never fast-cook anything.

“We don’t rush anything,” Powdrell says. “If we run out of ribs or beef, we don’t rush up and get something ready. If it takes two or three days to do it, that’s what we do.”

Joe now runs the business full-time, while his brother Mike is the corporation’s vice president. The two are transitioning the business as their farther winds down his involvement.

The business has brought the Powdrell family blessings it never could have imagined, including good will, good fortune and friends and customers who encompass the rich and famous as well as regular folks.

“This business has always been bigger than anything we could have ever imagined,” Joe says. “Not only have we had financial success to a certain degree, but we have had good human relations success, our family has extended into our own employees and customers—it’s huge.”

Joe says that nothing will change at the restaurants as his dad reduces his involvement.

It better not, because Pete Powdrell can indeed make a piece of wood good enough to eat.

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