Category Archives: Blogging

Slowing down

After 18 years of writing this column (the last 15 months online) I ‘m going to take a little break. It seems like a good time for a vacation to recharge my batteries. A lot of my energy for the past few months has gone into the construction of my new tennis court and the formation of the new Genesee Volley Tennis Club. (I have a blog for that too, but you have to be a club member to access it!)

In addition, the PDDG movement seems to have run its course. As predicted, the people with the big money and the expensive lawyers usually win these things, although I think we did accomplish a lot in encouraging the Planning Board to find a compromise and raising the community’s consciousness about the importance of supporting local business.

There may well yet be a lawsuit over the project, but if there is, it won’t be me leading the charge. I’m tired and looking to turn to a new chapter in my life: Tennis and also making my Genesee Graphics business successful.

In that regard, we will soon see the opening of our own category-killer in the form of a new Staples in town. They obviously provide many of the same services that are available at our copy center, however, our competitive advantage will still be our expertise in graphic design. That is something that only comes from years of experience that the average Staples employee will not have.

Actually, it will be a great convenience for us to have the Staples so close. We buy a lot of our paper and other supplies from them and have been making almost weekly trips to Henrietta to do so. That’s a lot of $4 a gallon gas we will save!

Now we will see if the sermon on supporting locally-owned business over the Big national Box will help us. I have a lot of confidence in our niche, so much so, that I just signed a one-year extension of our lease in the Scoville Building. I hope I won’t be disappointed.

I will probably resume this column in a month or so, sooner if events warrant or the spirit moves me. Until then, I’ll see you around town and on the court!

Crunching the numbers

As reported in our sister news blog today, last night we recorded our 20,000th visitor to the Clarion News Blog. This column and the other column blog by Bill Lofquist, also each have had over 6,000 readers in the same 10 month period. (Actually, Bill is ahead of me by about 1,000 visitors with almost 7,500, but I’m gaining fast!)

What does all this mean? Looking at the News Blog, 20,000 visitors over 10 months works out to about 500 visitors a week. Our biggest week, not surprisingly, was election week in November when we had almost 1,200 visitors.

Our News Blog numbers have actually gone down a little in recent months, since we redesigned the home page and started sending out a weekly e-mail newsletter. This makes sense, since both of these changes allow people to see what the news story is without actually clicking through to the blog.

At the same time, however, traffic to the two column blogs has more than tripled, and for the last few weeks they have actually been outdrawing the News Blog. Part of this is no doubt due to a lack of hot news items as of late.

With the Planning Board’s attorney announcing that he will need 5 or 6 weeks to digest the draft FEIS proposed by Newman Development, and the board (with the notable exception of the Chairman) signaling a willingness to take the time to do things right, it doesn’t look like anything drastic is going to happen any time soon.

This is likely to be just the lull before the storm, however. Eventually the board will have to come to grips with the fact that Newman has not changed its spots, and that the proposed FEIS, just like everything else they have done on this project, is woefully inadequate.

The Newman pattern was established long ago. Submit mountains of irrelevant data with as little real information as possible, and then whine about how much they’ve done and how unfair the delay is. The theory, of course, is that the Planning Board and the general public will eventually get tired of fighting and give in.

That’s a strategy that may have been successful in other towns, but I don’t think it is going to fly here. The main reason is that there are too many of you out there reading the truth in these blogs.

Please keep reading (and keep telling your friends about these blogs), keep writing comments, and keep letting our elected and appointed officials know that we want real answers, not more lies and deception!

The Clarion Call sells out!

Long-time readers of the Clarion Call Blogs will have noticed a more commercial look to our home page recently. It started with the addition of a small number of local advertisers who I approached in December.

Thankfully some of them said yes and I was able to add a little cash flow to what had been, for its first 8 months, entirely a labor of love (or hate!) I am grateful to my local advertisers and I hope those of you who are regular readers of the blog will show your appreciation by being regular customers of those businesses –and don’t forget to tell them that you saw their ad online!

Not satisfied with that, however, in the great capitalist tradition of our country, I recently signed up to run text and display ads provided by Google. I also converted all my web site’s search engines over to Google one’s as well.

The way the Google program works is that I earn a very small amount every time a reader clicks on one of those Google ads. (As near as I can figure, it’s something less than 20 cents depending on the type of ad you click on.) Nevertheless if you have lots of readers and lots of clicks, you can eventually expect to make enough money to buy your morning coffee. (Hey, every little bit helps these days!)

As part of my agreement with Google, I am not supposed to encourage people to click on those ads just to make me money, and I certainly wouldn’t want to violate that agreement. On the other hand, I hope readers will pay careful attention to the ads, and if you see something that truly interests you, feel free to click through!

If you use the Google search engine (and who doesn’t?) perhaps you would like to bookmark our version of it. Just clink on the link above and then bookmark the page. Then if you happen to click through on an ad on the search results page, we’ll make a few cents. Thanks!

The interesting thing about the program is that, Google, in its infinite wisdom, targets what ads you will see based on the content of the page you are reading or the search term you used. I’ve noticed that some local ads have already shown up on the home page, as well as a text ad for people looking for plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Lowe’s. Now they’re getting the right idea!

Of course, we are also getting a lot of ads for Clarion Hotels and Clarion software and electronic equipment, but I guess that can’t be helped! I’m going to try experimenting with adding some meta-tags to the pages to see if that brings more focused results.

If you don’t like all the commercial clutter, I also added a donation box. This is a service provided by Amazon.com that allows appreciative readers to make anonymous donations to the site. All you have to do is click on the little donation box (or the link below) and Amazon takes it from there.

Amazon reports that 25 million Americans already have an Amazon account, and if you do, you may see your first name come up in the greeting on the the box. I admit this is a little spooky, but it just means that Amazon knows who you are, even if I don’t!

As I point out in the copy on the donation page, the suggested contribution is $10 per year. That is less than 1/3 the cost of subscribing to a local newspaper, and the Clarion Blogs can cover breaking stories in a much more timely (not to mention unbiased) fashion. Isn’t it worth it?

Who knows? If I get enough donations I may be able to dispense with the advertising altogether–but don’t count on it!

The incredible shrinking newspaper

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Halftime report

Although today is Christmas, it is also a Tuesday, and so I feel compelled to write a column, something I have done practically every Tuesday for the past 18 years. Traffic to the Clarion Call Blogs has slowed to a crawl in the lead-up to the Holiday, but 54 people have responded to the Lowe’s poll posted last Thursday, and so I thought it was time to share the early returns in this halftime report.

49 of the respondents so-far are residents of Geneseo, which represents more than 2 per cent of the people who voted in this year’s town elections. Most pollsters would kill for such a sample, but I am hoping for a second wave of respondents before the polls close on Sunday. So, if you haven’t already taken the poll, please do, and please encourage your friends to as well. (No matter what their political beliefs!)

Obviously, the more respondents we get, the more accurate the results should be, assuming that people are honest in their answers and only take the poll once. Of course, it is unlikely we will totally overcome the bias that comes from the poll being posted on the clarioncall web site. So far, about 57 per cent of respondents are either totally against the Lowe’s or leaning against it. Judging from the election, that result is pretty much the opposite of the way people voted.

Another clear tip-off that the sample is biased is that I am leading in the Supervisor’s race with 15 votes versus 12 each for Bob and Will. Only one person admitted voting for Wes which is out of whack with his 25 per cent showing in the actual election. Are Wes’s supporters underrepresented on the Internet in general, or just on the clarioncall site? Probably both!

Interestingly, 10 people declined to say who they voted for. Could it be they doubted that the poll was really anonymous? They are perhaps wise to be skeptical about any claim of privacy on the Internet (see my previous column), however, if there is a way to figure out how people answered these questions, I am not smart enough to do it, and I really don’t want to know!

Now for the internals! The interesting thing about any poll is not the overall results but the correlation between answers to different questions. For instance, in the sample thus far, residents of the village were opposed to or leaning against Lowe’s by a 2-1 margin, while town residents were evenly split on the issue.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a person’s position on Lowe’s was a key indicator of whether they thought Planning Board member John Zmich should be re-appointed. Of the 32 people against/leaning against Lowe’s, 30 of them wanted to see John re-appointed, with none wanting him replaced and only 2 not sure.

In contrast, of the 23 who stated they were in favor of or leaning towards Lowe’s, 13 wanted John dumped with only two wanting him reappointed. Interestingly though, there was less certainty in this group, with 6 people, or 26%, not sure on the question and two not answering.

There seemed to be more of a consensus, however, on the type of person who should be appointed to replace John if he is not re-appointed. 54% of all respondents wanted a candidate with no known position on Lowe’s, with only 7 people (or 17%) demanding a pro-Lowe’s replacement.

Turning to politics, it is also noteworthy that 1/3 of those responding said that positions on Lowe’s were not the most important factor in choosing a candidate in the fall election. Proving that, two voters who were leaning against Lowe’s voted for Will, while Bob and I each got the vote of someone leaning in favor of Lowe’s.

There is much more data to be mined here, but for now you will have to be satisfied with this and the raw numbers reported here. However, as a special Christmas present I’ll list all those who got votes sp far to take John’s place on the planning board: Sharryn Duffy, Craig Macauley, Liz Porter, Lizz Savard, Soren Thomas, Jeremy Grace and Corrin Strong (And no, I didn’t vote for myself!)

Stay tuned for the complete final poll report to be published on the Clarion News Blog next Monday!

Almost Full Disclosure

332 people were sent an e-mail newsletter from me last Saturday afternoon promoting the clarioncall.com blogs. As of this writing on Tuesday evening, 185 of those (or about 55.7%) opened that e-mail. Of those who did, so far 119 (or 64.7%) actually clicked on at least one of the links to look at a blog.

I know all this (and a lot more) because of the very detailed reporting that my e-mail service, Constant Contact, provides. I also learned more than I really wanted to know about some of my readers!

I know, for instance, which readers had nothing much going on Saturday afternoon and opened the e-mail in the first hour. I also know who stays up late and reads their e-mails after midnight and I know who the early risers are.

Of course, if you didn’t open the e-mail I don’t know what to think. Perhaps you are not an e-mail junkie and will get around to checking your e-mail eventually or perhaps you are just busy this time of year. I suppose there might even be a few people out there who just don’t care about what I might have to say!

Constant Contact says that some e-mail reading programs have a feature that disables the reporting so there may actually be more than 185 people who have opened the e-mail. It is certainly also possible that my e-mail was blocked by a spam filter somewhere along the way.
All of this knowledge is a little scary, but in my defense, I can say that I had no idea I would be getting all this information when I signed up to use the service. I provide this full disclosure so that those of you who received the newsletter can think twice about whether you want to open the next one, from me, or anyone else!

If you go straight to the blogs without opening an e-mail or clicking on a newsletter link, I have no way of knowing who you are. (Unless of course you post a comment, in which case I can trace your digital footprint and hunt you down like a dog!)

If you want to be removed from the list, Constant Contact makes it easy to opt out, which 8 people (or about 2.3%) already have. On the other hand, if you did not get a newsletter and would like to, you can sign up on the clarioncall.com home page. Just click on the big yellow button that says “join our e-mail list.” Remember, if you change your mind, you can alway opt out at any time!

BTW My response was way above average according to Constant Contact. Their figures show that only 38 per cent of e-mails from small businesses are ever opened and only 8.9 per cent of those readers actually click on a link.

I suppose this means that my target audience was very interested in the message. That’s not surprising since my list was mainly comprised of people that I have had some contact with before, either in politics, community organizations or through my previous life in the newspaper business.

So now that I know about the potential invasion of privacy that this technology can deliver, will I do it again? Of course! And for one very good reason: it works!

On Sunday, which is normally a slow day online, I set a new record for traffic to this column with over 150 people visiting! Overall, no doubt mainly because of the buzz created by the newsletter, last week’s column was read by almost 400 people which is also a near-record. But it is not the quantity of the readers so much as the quality.

This column was read last week by a virtual Who’s Who of political leaders and heavy hitters in Geneseo and Livingston County, but you’ll have to take my word for that. I would never disclose that list!

Truth in the age of Youtube

This column is being written two days past deadline on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 22. The date explains the delay. For those not old enough to remember, today is the 44th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I’m running late because I’ve spent the last three days getting bleary-eyed reading JFK conspiracy web sites–It happens every November!

Perhaps because I am old enough to remember (I was 12 on that fateful day), I’ve always had a fascination with what has been called the Crime of the Century. The killing of a young President was bad enough, but what came next has forever sown the seeds of doubt about what really happened. Like millions of others, I witnessed the murder of alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby live on national television.

Even a cursory look at Ruby’s background throws much doubt on the cover story that he was a Kennedy-loving patriot out to avenge the murder of his hero. Ruby may have been a patriot, but it’s hard to sell that as the primary motivation for someone who was the owner of a sleazy Dallas strip club and had traveled to Havana at the invitation of mob friends at least once.

Once you go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories it can be tough to get back to the surface. And once you realize how many enemies Kennedy had in 1963 Texas, it’s a wonder that more people weren’t hit in the crossfire in Dealey Plaza that day.

A short list of people who wanted JFK dead would include Cuban exiles who were upset over Kennedy’s failure to supply promised air support for the aborted Bay of Pigs invasion; their CIA controllers who were fired for launching the raid in the first place; the Mafia who were double-crossed and prosecuted by AG Bobby Kennedy after helping elect his brother (and also wanted to get back into Cuba); the Military-Industrial complex who were angry at Kennedy’s decision to withdraw from Vietnam; LBJ who was about to be dumped as a running mate because of persistent financial scandals that were under investigation; Oil men mad at JFK’s proposal to cut the oil depletion allowance which would have cost them millions, bigots angry at Kennedy’s support for civil rights legislation, and possibly even Jackie for all of her husband’s philandering!

No wonder that analysis of photos taken on Elm Street that day allegedly show a rogue’s gallery of every spook and black ops agent ever known. In addition to those caught on film, it was also reported that most of the future Watergate burglars and future Presidents Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush were in town that day.

Of course, seeing is believing, and for many years the gold standard of what really happened during those much disputed seconds in Dallas was the Zapruder film. Just when the Warrenistas had seemed close to finally proving that Oswald really was the lone gunman, however, along comes some very serious questions about the authenticity of that film. Could it have been doctored by cover-up artists seeking to hide the truth? I don’t know, but the evidence is disturbing.Try googling it.

Regardless of all that, it seem increasingly likely to me that Oswald told the truth when he said “I didn’t kill anybody, I’m just a patsy.” I tend to believe the reports that he was a paid FBI informer who was “sheep-dipped” in New Orleans to make it appear that he was anti-Castro.

His main job was informing on renegade Cubans who Kennedy had ordered the FBI to shut down after the Bay of Pigs, but he may have been allowed to infiltrate the assassination plot, by those wanting to compromise that agency. How better to control an investigation than by framing an active FBI contact?

One of the more disturbing elements to me personally that my recent reading (and viewing) has uncovered is the allegation of George Bush 41’s involvement in the plot. This stems from a memo that J. Edgar Hoover drafted about the assassination in which he describes briefing “George Bush of the CIA.” Bush has always denied that he was involved in the CIA before being named Director in 1975, but isn’t that standard operating procedure?

I find it hard to believe that the genial man we hosted in our home when he spoke at the Wadsworth lecture in 1999, could be the mastermind of the Crime of the Century and involved in many other nasty things as well, but those were different times. After Russian missiles were discovered in Cuba in 1962, it’s understandable why many felt it was in the national interest to eliminate Fidel Castro.

Studying the Kennedy assasination is a great way to learn about politics and the history of our country. Suffice is to say there are many dark truths which are generally not taught in our grade schools. For those who like their trails less cold, I recommend you read up on the deaths of Vince Foster and Ron Brown during the Clinton years.

If nothing else, the battle for truth over these cases, JFK, Watergate, Flight 800, 9/11 and many more controversies should teach us not to always trust our own eyes or believe the conventional wisdom.