Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's Deja Vu all over again

The headline will only make sense to the readers who have a Deju Vu "men's" club in their area.

But one former reporter has made the leap from reporter to strip club communications director:

A Reporter Faces the Naked Truth

Justice comes to Kurt Heintz

Back in July 2008 I recounted my frustration in the Journal management's handling of an investigative story I was working on in July of 2007 that involved a massive local mortgage fraud by Kurt Heintz.

The fact that the two top editors and high-priced lawyers hired by the Journal to review my documents were unable to see clearly what law enforcement and I could see from the county and township records remains a mystery. Actually it's no mystery, they were just afraid.

While I was in California, Heintz and an accomplice pleaded guilty to the massive mortgage fraud and now faces 30 years in prison. The $20 million scam also ended up with Mr. Heintz's wife being stabbed by a defrauded investor, which finally dragged the Journal kicking and screaming into the investigation.

I will always believe if the Journal and its top-gun lawyers had not been scared out of their skins at the size of this fraud and too timid to run the story, the stabbing may not have happened and justice may have come sooner.

Not to mention the Journal would have had a kick butt story that would have alerted its readers to a major fraud in their midst that would have been an early snapshot of the financial real estate crash that we are now all facing.

It is what is wrong with journalism run by civil attorneys. So when I hear now in a quote in the Journal that the new editor is all about investigative reporting I chuckle. Let's just hope that none of the Journal's attorneys end up in the Justice department.

Good riddance Kurt W. Heintz (which the Journal spelled "Heinz" as in 57 varieties in its jump headline) may you be a lesson to somebody.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Putting things into perspective

Yesterday's flight home from California was filled with frustration. High winds in Las Vegas (the first leg of my trip) closed the San Jose airport for an hour which delayed my flight from San Jose to the point everyone at U.S. Airways knew I would not only miss one connecting flight in Las Vegas, but a later one in Chicago.

So they pulled me off my San Jose flight with a promise to find me another way home. Their solution was delaying my flight home by 24 hours. So then I was upset they pulled me off a flight to Las Vegas only to have me stay in San Jose for another day. Heck, if I'm going to be stuck somewhere for 24 hours, where better than Las Vegas.

When I balked at the 24-hour delay, they offered a flight on a United Airlines jumbo jet (B777) out of San Francisco International for a non-stop trip to Chicago on Thursday that would get me into Chicago in time to make my original connecting flight to Flint. OK, that works, but how do I get to the San Francisco airport 35 miles away for the flight? Oh, you have to pay for the cab ride, the sweet airline lady said.

My pointing out that they had pulled me off the flight and that perhaps they should pay the cab ride brought me a sympathetic look and a phone call to the cab company, but no offer to pay. Half way to San Francisco I realized that the $15 I paid for my suitcase NOT to fly on U.S. Airways had not been refunded.

At San Francisco International, the polite man from India who drove me to the airport, dropped me off at the United Airlines terminal, not knowing that I should have been dropped off at the International Terminal a considerable distance away.

So I walked the long distance to the International Terminal and the first question security asked me was if I had my passport. "To go to Chicago?" I said. I think he could tell I was having a bad day and let the matter drop.

My name is on the terrorist watch list (thanks to another guy with my name who is nine years younger) so each trip through security is a real gem. But I made it through my second security check of the day and headed to the gate with boarding pass in my hand and hope in my heart that I was finally going home.

When they called my group to board the gigantic airplane I walked to the gate and was stopped by a nice, but determined airline employee (OK, there's a pattern here) who said I had "not been screened" by security.

"Oh, yes I have, twice today, in fact," I said. "Do I look like Houdini? I'm not exactly a small person kind of hard for me to sneak by unnoticed."

"But your boarding pass was not marked by TSA," she said with a smile.

"And that's my problem, how?" I said with a determined look of my own. I was about to find out.

I had to step aside while two apologetic, but determined, members of the TSA responded to the gate to go through my carry on, run a wand over my whole body and screen me for the third time in front of my fellow passengers.

I was the last person on the packed plane and there was no place for my carry on, which I had to stuff under the seat in front of me which left me no leg room for the more than three hour flight to Chicago. It might just be me, but I got a lot of sideways glances from the passengers who had seen me searched like a bank robber in the terminal.

In Chicago, I had less than an hour to get from the United terminal to my original American Eagle flight three terminals away, but for the first time on Thursday, everything went right and I made my connecting flight home.

My mood was very poor until I turned on the television and learned that at the same time I was in the air between Chicago and Flint a Continental flight crashed outside Buffalo, NY killing more than 50 people.

So for all my frustration, anger and inconvenience, at least I am here to tell my sad tale. So I have two words left to say about my terrible flight experience: Never mind.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Michigan here I come! Right back where I started from.

I have scheduled this post to go up about 10 a.m. (obviously, I did that wrong, it went up at 1 a.m.) Thursday on Pacific coast time. That's the time my flight departs San Jose for the roundabout trip back to Michigan.

There will be a stop in Las Vegas, Chicago and then home to Flint, hopefully arriving about 11:30 p.m. today.

It has been a tremendous time in California and while the reason for it, my brother's memorial party, was a sad one, it was a great time of visiting, reconnecting and meeting new friends during this past 16 days.

For all my jokes about my home state of California and its "fruits and nuts" it never ceases to dazzle me the number of things there are to do here. As I leave here, the weather has turned dreary and wet, which is a good thing because there is a great concern about the lack of rainfall here.

So while the blogging hasn't really suffered (quantity wise, anyway) blogging should return to a more normal cycle starting this weekend.

Fortunately, my weekend includes a sleepover with three-year-old granddaughter Addisen Joy who is staying with my wife and I while our son and daughter-in-law enjoy a romantic Valentine weekend away.

While it has been fun to be away, it is true what they say: There is no place like home!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

News about news

Lots of new postings over on Newspaper Death Watch that outline the current state of newspapers.

Hopefully that will keep the freefromeditors crowd happy until I get home.

No "slumdog" in our day

We had a beautiful day in the redwoods and on the coast yesterday. When I get home I'll post a few photos of the giant redwoods and the Pt. Reyes lighthouse.

After a day of hiking and touring we were too tired to go to a movie theater, but instead rented a DVD and watched "What Happens in Vegas" in our suite.

We also watched the news and it appears Congress is going to pass this massive bail out measure like the Capitol is on fire. The speed with which this is being done and the stupidity of many things in the bill is reminiscent of last September when the last bailout bill was done. And we all know how that turned out.

I'll say it again, we are simply burdening our children and grandchildren with a huge debt that will saddle them with obligations they cannot possibly pay. It is immoral, but everyone wants a quick fix and like most quick fixes this one will cost more in the end.

Stimulation is one thing, pork and projects that serve only small constituencies is quite another. Bailing out states is going to set a precedent that will haunt this country far into the future, but we all want everything now. We'll see how this turns out, but I am convinced it won't be good.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Not that you asked

Today my sister and cousin and I are heading out for a walk in Armstrong Grove - a nearby redwood forest - and then out to Pt. Reyes for another walk along the beach at one of the prettiest places in California.

Tonight we plan to watch "Slumdog Millionaire" and then cook in our deluxe suite here in Windsor, California. We have a beautiful three bedroom suite at one of the WorldMark resorts.

Yesterday we did wine tasting in Napa and had dinner at the Union Hotel (first time for me in 30 years). It has been a great, great visit.

Tomorrow we head back to Danville and Thursday I head home to Michigan. Actually, I am very ready to be home and with my wife. This has been a fun, but exhausting trip.

Shut down newspaper websites for a week: An idea

Well, not my idea, but you can see and hear it all here:

Hat tip to loyal reader JT for the item.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Mayor Don announces retirement

Even in California it's hard to get away from the big news back home.

Channel 12 report - Mayor Don to quit

Some "Advance" newspaper news

Here's an item I "borrowed" from the Inside Out blog, which is a pretty good read on its own, by the way. It has to do with the growing clouds over the Advance Newspapers:

Advance Newspaper closure warning

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A great day for a party

It was a day my brother would have loved. Friends, family, neighbors and friends of my brother's from the Foothill Theatre Company gathered Saturday to remember and celebrate his life.

My first wife, youngest son and granddaughter were there. My wife flew in from Michigan to be there. My sister flew in from West Virginia to be there. A cousin from Southern California and the cousin we're staying with in Danville (home of "Sully" the hero pilot of the Hudson) was there also.

Many, many friends, some who I met before and some who I met for the first time Saturday braved the clear skies, bright sun and relatively warm temperatures to attend.

I'm going to have much more to say about this later, but let me just say that you learn a lot about someone you loved just from talking with the people they knew and loved.

People loved my brother, they respected my brother and they cared for my brother. What more could you want to hear.

My sister-in-law Barbara was a terrific host and the day could not have been more perfect.

Rest in Peace brother. More later.