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SLU Public Policy Studies Bulletin Now Online

August 31, 2006 Media 2 Comments

Yours truly is editing SLU’s Department of Public Policy Studies online bulletin for the Fall 2006 semester. As you might expect from me, I took the bulletin from a long weekly email format to a blog format. So now rather than simply a few email recipients receiving updates on happenings in the department it is open to the whole world. Granted, we are not going to displace CNN or frankly even my blog with postings like classroom assignments and such.

But others items may interest you. For example, an upcoming tidbit on the bulletin will be a presentation by two SLU professors on public housing policy in the US vs. The Netherlands. I also plan to post numerous student papers for you to download and read at your leisure.

Check it out at ppsbulletin.com

– Steve


‘Mr. Smith’ Extended in St. Louis, Additional Cities Booked

August 25, 2006 Media, Politics/Policy 1 Comment

The documentary of the summer, Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore? has been extended again through the end of August at Landmark’s Tivoli on Delmar in The Loop, a good five weeks. I saw it opening night on July 27th but I plan to go back before this run ends — I’m sure I missed some good parts with the quick pace of the documentary.

Producer & personal friend Mike Kime informs me interest in the film is expanding greatly and as a result a number of showings are scheduled in a number of cities (plus talks on another dozen or so):

Washington, DC – E Street Cinema; September 22 – 29

Palm Desert, California – Cinemas Palme d’Ore; September 29 – October 5

Concord, NH October 13

Hot Springs, Arkansas – Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival; Oct 20-29

Columbia, Missouri – Ragtag Cinema; October 22 & 23

Cambridge, Massachusetts – Kendall Square Cinema; November 3 – 9

Tulsa, Oklahoma at CircleCine; Nov.14 and 15

And for the teachers:

We are going to do a special program for schools and will hold a free showing for teachers in the next few weeks. If there are any teachers who want to attend, they can contact us.

– Steve


Election Recap on KDHX Tonight

August 14, 2006 Media 5 Comments

I will be a guest on KDHX’s Collateral Damage program tonight from 7pm to 7:30pm. DJ Wilson, Thomas Crone and myself to review the results from the primary election as well as other timely topics. Have some ideas? Use the comments below for topics you’d like to see discussed on the air.

KDHX can be found at 88.1FM or at kdhx.org. You can stream online if you don’t have a radio (like myself) or you can subscribe to the podcast (iPod not required).

– Steve


Patterson to Speak on Convergence in Journalism

Today I will be participating in a panel discussing the convergence of technology in journalism at a luncheon of the Society of Professional Journalists. Despite protests saying I’m not a journalist, much less professional, I was asked to participate. I have been paid for writing so perhaps I am a professional writer? The other panelists are the real deal, Dale Singer of the Post-Dispatch and Bill Raack, KWMU’s News Director. The moderator will be David Nicklaus of the Post-Dispatch.

I was introduced to the term “Convergence Journalism” in a way typical of blogging — through a comment on a post. Regular readers my recall this comment from “Megan” from earlier this year:

I am a Journalism student at the University of Missouri-Columbia. I heard about your blog through various sources and I decided to check it out.

Recently, in one of my Journalism classes we discussed the dangers of blogging to the field of Convergence Journalism. The Convergence field of Journalism is a newly recognized (it is the first year this sequence has been offered at MIZZOU) sequence that focuses mostly on Online Publishing and Online Periodicals (CBSNews.com, etc). The problem of blogging is that in creating a blog and deeming it a title so decidedly journalistically inclined as the “Urban Review” you are lending a false credibility to yourself and, in essence, misleading those who may misinterpret your articles as truth instead of simply your opinion. I am sure that you think that you are very unbiased but the truth is that as a Journalism student I am horrified at what blogs like yours will mean for the future of Convergence Journalism. I can see that you have been praised by several in my future chosen field, but I am simply horrified and insulted by your irresponsible use of a blog for your own ulterior motives.

While accepting my role in local media I have never once called myself a journalist. The various roles are certainly melding together and technology changes. Nearly everyone reading my site gets that I am espousing my own opinion, not presenting an unbiased look at the built environment.

Naturally I contacted Mizzou’s School of Journalism to see what it is they are teaching that got Megan so upset as to call me “irresponsible.” Here is a response from one of the professors in Convergence Journalism:

While I can’t speak on behalf of the entire Convergence faculty, the student’s views as expressed on your blog comments do not reflect my views and I suspect they are not at all representative of the views of my colleagues on the Convergence faculty. I don’t think Megan is actually a student in the Convergence sequence as she seems to have an unclear idea of what our program is all about.

It wouldn’t shock me if there were some journalism faculty who shared her views, but I hope her notions of blogging are a result of youth and inexperience and not something she was told in class. When I was her age I thought I knew everything too.

Convergence is all around us. The Post-Dispatch is beginning to incorporate video on stltoday.com, TV stations have written stories on their websites, and radio stations are including written stories as well as having podcasts available for download. Video, audio and the written word are all coming together from formerly separate sources. Everyone is learning as major newspapers now find themselves competing not only with TV, Radio and weekly papers but with small papers such as the Arch City Chronicle. TV stations, limited by time, are competing with more detailed video from sources such as PubDef. I have no stats to prove my theory but I believe as people continue to read sites such as this they are reducing their use of more traditional media.

On a side note, today’s luncheon will be held in a blighted area. Yes, those brave journalists are making their way to a blighted area awaiting redevelopment. Don’t worry for them, however, as the luncheon is in Clayton at the upscale Bar Napoli. Centene corporation plans to raze most of the block to expand their headquarters.

– Steve


GM, Bush & CARB Killed the Electric Car

July 31, 2006 Environment, Media 13 Comments

Man I am pissed off. I just sent an email to General Motors which helped but only a little. Why am I so angry? I saw the documentary ‘Who Killed the Electric Car‘ at the Hi-Point Friday night.

Basically, GM F’d up big time. They started their electric vehicle program in 1988 with a concept car shown in 1990 and entering limited production in 1996 (the EV1). GM was actually out front and ahead of the curve on this one. Toyota & Honda, today’s leaders in hybrid technology, were following GM! In 2000 GM dropped the EV1 in favor of the Hummer and other large gas guzzling SUVs (Ford did the same thing). Today GM and Ford both are struggling to be profitable as free market consumers continue to purchase fewer and fewer of their products. They are scrambling to close plants and fire workers to remain solvent. Meanwhile, other manufacturers such as Toyota and Honda are opening new plants in the U.S. to meet increased demand for their products.

But the stupidity didn’t stop at the GM & Ford Board of Directors. No, the stupidity continued at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and finally stopping at the Oval office with Dubbya. Before all the free market people start bitching about how we cannot force people to drive tiny cars please read carefully — government policy has been and continues to encourage the use of large vehicles and the burning of fossil fuels. From tax incentives offered for corporate vehicles to not improving requirements for average fuel economy to dropping the Zero Emission Vehicle mandate government policy has encouraged the proliferation of large vehicles and the stagnation of the U.S. auto industry.

Pollution and dependence upon foreign oil continue to be major issues. Had CARB stuck to their requirement for ZEVs (2% in 1998, 5% by 2001 and 10% by 2003) we may be well on our road to cleaner air and not be fighting a war over oil. Instead the Bush administration and others are pushing hydrogen fuel cells as the wave of the future. However, like electric cars, R&D takes time and money. Many experts say affordable fuel cell vehicles are a good 15-20 years away.

In the meantime we are supposed to continue burning fuel in internal combustion engines using alternate fuels. The 85% ethanol blend E85 is being promoted as a green product for flex-fuel vehicles and Biodiesel has similar claims. Here is the problem, it takes a lot of energy to grow corn or other products and process them into the so-called green fuels. With the exception of biodiesel made from waste, both are at best a break-even in terms of overall energy consumption and offer little difference from gasoline with respect to emissions.

We were so close and GM was leading the way. Yes, GM a leader! The movie assigns blame to GM, big oil and others for killing the electric car. I pretty much agree with their conclusions.

Of course, electric vehicles are not dead. What is dead is the mandate for a percentage of a manufacturer’s vehicles to be zero emissions. With that GM and Ford can talk about their hybrid vehicles that don’t get as good of milage as my ’06 Scion or even a 10-year old Saturn. Good job guys!

Zap (Zero Air Pollution):

First I want to disclose that I have a miniscule amount of stock in this company. They’ve got some interesting products, including a cute new 2-seater. Alas, some of these are way above average in cost. ZAP is also an importer of the Mercedes-built smart that I am quite fond of.

GEM (Global Electric Motors, LLC):

This company makes the electric vehicles you may have seen around downtown of late. A couple of developers have these and I know at least one loft owner that does. These are considered a Low Speed Vehicle (LSV) which has less requirements for being driven on the road. They are electronically limited to 25mph. This class of vehicle are often referred to as the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) as use is often limited to the immediate neighborhood. This company is a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler.

A number of vehicles exist on the market, some costing well over $100,000 but offering performance that you’d expect from a car costing that much.

GM is responding to the film with their own take on the situation (click here). Here is what GM says are the facts:

GM invested more than $1 billion in the EV1 program, which included money for installing a charging infrastructure and for marketing the product.

Even with extensive publicity, award-winning advertising and customer incentives the Electric Vehicle program was not a commercially viable business.

GM leveraged advanced technology to create the Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid. It will hit showrooms later this summer, incorporating a new, more affordable gas-electric technology.

Nobody is disputing GM’s investment. However, the film disputes claims about demand, basically saying the advertising campaign was botched and that GM discouraged anyone from leasing an EV1. GM is not making a very good case in my view for disputing this claim. And finally we have a hybrid version of an existing Saturn Vue SUV that GM says will get 27 city and 32 highway (read review). Wow, those are horrible numbers. GM’s advantage is the Vue’s pricetag being about $7,000 or so less than the nearest competition, the Ford Escape Hybrid. However, the Saturn is considered a “mild” hybrid as it uses a regular gasoline engine for acceleration from stop rather than electric motors as on more traditional hybrids. It is the use of the electric motors to accelerate that enable cars like the Toyota Prius to get their outstanding milage.

I have to wonder what if CARB hadn’t lessoned the requirements and the various manufacturers had met the 10% rule by 2003. Would 10%+ of us in present day 2006 be driving electric cars? If so, things would certainly have come to a halt after our recent power outages caused by storms. How sad would that be to not be able to leave your hot house because your electric car needs charging?

The big downside to full electrics over hybrids like the Prius is battery life. With hybrids it is thought the batteries will actually last the life of the car as they are never fully charged or drained. When it comes to disposal of the vehicle that is a good thing. With full electrics I have to wonder what the environmental impact would be with all those batteries being manufactured and then disposed of every 2-3 years.

Ultimately the most sustainable car will combine a number of technologies, we’ll have the flex-fuel (or biodiesel) plug-in hybrid. What’s that you say? Imagine a future generation hybrid that uses E85 for the internal combustion engine (or a biodiesel) but needs very little because you plugged the car into the grid allowing it to act as a full electric until the batteries are nearly dead. That, combined with a solar roof, will be the car of the future. It will not be hydrogen powered. For a list of manufacturers that make electric vehicles, including scooters, see the Electric Auto Association.

Simply replacing our existing vehicles with some new technology isn’t going to solve many other problems and it may in fact create others. Reducing auto trips and distances traveled must be part of a bigger picture.

– Steve