Buzz

Let's not
Was the Houston Chronicle making a snide prediction about the vapid speech Gov. George W. Bush gave at his inauguration, or was it just a Freudian slip?

Buzz is referring to a typo in a Chronicle story that appeared before the event. The inauguration's theme was "Together We Can--Juntos Podemos." The Chron, however, wrote the Spanish as "Juntos Pedemos," which very loosely translated means something else altogether.

Still, Buzz kind of likes the Chronicle's version better. Here it is, the dawn of a new century, and Texas is strong, proud, and firmly in the grip of the Christian Coalition. So let's clasp hands and turn our faces to the future. Come on, people, say it with Buzz: "Juntos Pedemos. Together, Let Us Fart."

Quick, somebody check the DNA
This buddy-buddy thing between Gov. Bush and former Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock is getting out of hand.

On the first day of the legislative session, with Bullock presiding over the Senate one final time, Democrat Bullock introduced Republican Bush to a packed chamber as "the future president of the United States." Bullock has said many times that he thinks Bush would make a great president, so this latest example of gratuitous back-slapping didn't faze us at first. It has been suggested, after all, that the old man thinks of Li'l Skippy as a son.

Waaaiiiit a minute here. A son?
So along comes inauguration day. And who was sitting on the front row on the stage along with the governor, his wife, their two daughters, and former President George and Barbara Bush? No, it wasn't Bush's two brothers, sister, or sister-in-law, who were assigned cheap seats in the back. It was Bullock and his wife sitting on the so-called "family row" at the invitation of the governor.

The family row?
After taking the oath, the governor kissed his wife, daughters, and mother. Then, he shook the hand of his pop before joyfully continuing down the line to Bullock. The two embraced in a bear hug. The governor then waved to Bullock's wife before returning to his seat.

Let's see. "Dad" gets a handshake. Bullock gets a bear hug. Do we sense a pattern here? OK, maybe the randy behavior among politicians has made us a wee bit suspicious. Surely nothing untoward is going on in this upright GOP family.

We tried to put our cynical thoughts aside, but then, an hour before Bush's inauguration took place outside the Capitol, taped music was played through the sound system to entertain onlookers. One of the selections--really--was "Me and Mrs. Jones," a soulful ballad about a man having an affair with a married woman. We'd expect that to be on the playlist at a Clinton inaugural, but a Bush one?

Hmm.

Poop storm
Another story, another legal bill.
The boys at computer game developer ION Storm were a bit peeved last week to see some of their internal company e-mail messages published in the Dallas Observer and on our Web site at www.dallasobserver.com. So, of course, they did what any good peeved American does. They sicced their lawyers on us.

Oh, no. Not that.
ION Storm's lawyers subpoenaed staff writer Christine Biederman, whose cover story last week detailed some of the management problems at ION Storm by way of explaining how the company has spent millions without producing its much-looked-for game, Daikatana. Taking a page from Cheap Lawyer Tricks 101, they issued the subpoena over the weekend, demanding that she show up bright and early Tuesday morning to answer questions, presumably about how she got her hands on the e-mails and who told her what for the story. Monday was a holiday, which made it difficult for Observer lawyers to file a motion to quash the subpoena. Difficult, but not impossible. We filed early Tuesday.

Lawyers for both parties are still working out what Biederman will eventually reveal about her sources. (Hint: not much.) But we'll give our lawyers some money. ION Storm will give their lawyers some of their investors' money--and while this thing works itself out, the Observer will continue to publish. Chances are, the same thing can't be said about ION Storm.

Supply and demand
Buzz is continually amazed about how very little we know about business. For instance, we stupidly thought that the demand for goods or services is related to price--make something cost too much, and fewer people buy it.

Apparently we were wrong. At least that's the take we get from a New York Times story published this week concerning A.H. Belo Corp.'s falling stock prices. The Times reported that investors are cool on Belo stock because of declining ad revenue at its flagship, The Dallas Morning News.

"Some analysts blame rate increases of 32 percent from 1995 to 1998 for retail advertising, 47 percent for general advertising, and 75 percent for classified employment ads," the Times reported.

Nonsense, say Belo executives. The News' costs per reader are lower than average. The fault lies elsewhere. And it's just coincidental that the biggest drop in revenue came in the area of employment ads, which saw the biggest percentage increase in price.

Boy, are we dumb. Those price increases sounded like monopolistic price-gouging to us, but what do we know?

The Times had some happy news to report, as well. "The cash-flow margins for the newspaper--perhaps the best measure of profitability--peaked at 34 percent in 1997 before dropping to 32.6 percent in 1998. Newspaper margins in the 20s are more common."

So the newspaper continues to perform well ahead of the industry. That should be good news to advertisers paying those steeper rates and the 180 people at the Morning News and WFAA who took early retirement recently to help boost those sagging stock prices.

--Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams

Juntos pedemos means Buzz can't do it without you. Send e-mail to patrick_williams@dallasobserver.com.

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