Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why I no longer read Mother Jones ...

or a lot of the political press these days that seems very biased ...
Reporter Patrick Caldwell has this post about "the people's pledge" proposal being demanded by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, of former Mass. U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, requesting he agree to the same terms he did in his 2012 re-election race against Elizabeth Warren: ["Scott Brown Ditches 'The People's Pledge' for Dark Money"].
Brown, who has formed an exploratory committee but hasn't announced an official run, balked at the idea. And why not? In 2012, the pledge didn't keep special interest money out of that race, as noted by PR Watch in this story from October 2012: ["In Massachusetts, even the "People's Pledge" Can't Keep Out the Outside Money"]. Brown lost re-election by around 250,000 votes after being out-spent by $7.2 million, as reported by OpenSecrets.org. I don't believe anyone has done an overview of the in-state special interest money that was spent on this election, probably in the millions (a Google search didn't reveal any analysis), including money spent by labor unions and the president's campaign pushing Warren and other Democrats over the top, which we know was more than Romney and Republicans spent nationally.
While there is a slight difference between "dark money" and "special interest money," it isn't a huge difference. It's all bad, whether it is a corporation, environmental group, an "evil" oil company that sells that gas that gets you everywhere in your car, or the Koch brothers. It's all evil money.
And that's where the Mother Jones story really misses the boat, especially at the end of the article - it can pounce on Brown - still, a non-candidate - for not rejecting potential special interest money that might attack Shaheen but doesn't even mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars in special interest funds spent attacking Brown for months before he even formed an exploratory committee.
As we've been reporting on Patch, the state Democrats launched an online ad in early December of last year, criticizing Brown about a potential run. That is a local expenditure and not "dark," in the historical context. But, it's still special interest money for sure. But, there's no mention of it in the Mother Jones story.
Then, a month later, the Senate Majority PAC began airing six figures worth of attack ads against Brown here. Out-of-state, dark, special interest money, truly just as bad as anything the Kochs and Rove will air. As you guessed, there's no mention of it in the Mother Jones story.
Then, the League of Conservation Voters bought six figures worth of ads to attack Brown, again, who hasn't decided he is going to run yet or even when the ads started airing in the state ... Dark, special interest, out-of-state money ... no mention in the Mother Jones story.
Take note of this in the League of Conservation Voters post about all they did 18 months ago to defeat Brown with dark, special interest, out-of-state money even though there was a "people's pledge"!
"In 2012, LCV launched mail and field programs to help defeat Brown in Massachusetts, spending more than $1.1 million in the race. LCV Action Fund also raised or contributed more than $134,000 for Elizabeth Warren through its GiveGreen program, the only bundling website devoted exclusively to raising money for environmental champions and candidates."
All this money is just as evil as the Koch/Rove money and yet, not a peep from Mother Jones about it. Why? More than likely, the reporter simply missed it or didn't perform a simple Google search to look. The Dark Money collection of stories though on the MJ site shows an obsession about the Kochs, not unlike a lot of other people these days. There is, in fairness, some Democratic special interest money mentioned there too but not quite as much.
Brown hasn't announced an official run (although it is assumed), so he doesn't have to agree to anything. He hasn't agreed to participate in debates, as an example.
In all honesty though, regardless of what anyone thinks of Shaheen or Brown, the "people's pledge" is a political stunt when it comes to getting or keeping special interest money out of politics, something most of us want. It allows all kinds of special interest money from INSIDE the state to be spent, money that always wants something for the money ... Why would anyone handcuff themselves at this stage of the game with something that's a stunt and doesn't really work anyway?

ALSO READ - Concord NH Patch - 2012: The Nastiest Election Ever?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

New Intown Concord fundraiser painting ...

The annual Intown Concord celebrity painting fundraiser is coming up on March 13, at the Kimball-Jenkins Estate in Concord.
I got a chance, once again, to do another painting, my second in about 30 years. It will be auctioned off as part of the org's general meeting.
This one came out OK. I decided to challenge myself a bit but I'm not quite happy with it. The purple bugs me although the depth on the gateway came out OK. I like the sun in the trees in places.
Next year, I'll have to try something different again.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cool, literally, ice fractals on cars ...


Here are some of the cool ice fractals that were on our cars on Jan. 15. The designs are pretty astounding. It's hard to imagine these naturally happening with such digital precision just from the air freezing condensation.




Sunday, January 5, 2014

Globalization and technology are to blame ...

It took two decades, but economists seem to be finally admitting that income inequality is based on two primary economic policies and occurrences: globalization - free trade, you know, that isn't really free - and advances in technology. Both are actually mentioned in this Bloomberg story: ["Obama Decries U.S. Income Gap That Has Widened Under His Watch"].
Much of the gap is out of the president’s control, economists say, citing forces such as globalization and the spread of technology that are overwhelming government remedies. Yet while Obama complains that Republicans are blocking his efforts to boost the minimum wage and provide universal pre-school, other policies that he has enacted such as trade agreements also may have contributed to inequality, they say. 
“There are things he could do that he hasn’t done,” says Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Democratic-leaning research group in Washington. “He’s done nothing to rein in the financial sector.” 
Maybe I haven't been paying attention (no, that's not it) but I really think this is something of a first, where the two things have actually been cited as a cause for our economy's perilous situation. Reining in the financial sector won't really fix things. Yes, the country can raise revenue through transaction taxes on Wall Street, do it, especially if it keeps income taxes from being raised. But those pirates are always going to do what they do (the problem is that they can drag everyone else down with them and they get bailed out).
The mystery here is the change in admission. Economists nearly always praise globalization to the point of illness. Free trade really is a cult. You can't talk about it. If you do, you're pilloried.
Technology has eliminated jobs but also created them ... good paying jobs too. Billionaires. I bet there is a balance, of sorts. But together, boom.
Maybe economists are starting to realize what is going on ... or finally just admitting what some of us have always known. Then again, maybe not. We'll see.

Mount Washington ...

and part of the presidential range ...


Snowtubing on Cranmore

We got a chance to go again this year. It was very cold but still a lot fun. Last year, it was snowing when we went so we were soaked; this year, it was just cold.
I was also able to take the kids again to the North Conway Grand Hotel's outdoor hot tub and heated pool. Sure, it was -23 degrees outside (that's not a typo, our hair was freezing instantly after it got wet), but it was fun. Here's a short video. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy b-day Politizine ...

It's been 11 years. Wow. I haven't done many posts because I've been busy with other things. Life happens. However, I appreciate the fact that many of you still visit, check out past posts, and even leave comments. Thank you to everyone. :-)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

RIP: Lou Reed ...

One of the most influential musicians of all time, Lou Reed, has passed away, according to Rolling Stone.
I think I'll put together a tribute show this week on WNHN at 9 p.m. on Wednesday but an hour can't possibly do his output justice.There are so many songs and they mean so much to so many people, including me. He really helped me through some rough times. I could always put it on and be taken somewhere else, even for a short time.
When I heard the news a little bit ago, I came upstairs to listen to some of the tunes. I also thought about all the songs I've covered by Reed and the Velvets over the years, so many great songs ...
"Temptation Inside Your Heart" with Lovers & Other Monsters (LVRS) and my brother singing with us at Thum's in Concord in 1993, a few months before he passed away.
When I was in this band Jet Velvet, we used to play a sloppy, bombastic version of "White Light/White Heat" (we had a female vocalist, so it was a bit different).
Joel Simches and I did "Ocean" at the Middle East one night just the two of us - me singing and strumming acoustic guitar and him on synths - it was simply amazing. I remember that one like it was yesterday, the crowd sitting in silence listening to us play it.
"Heroin" at the Jerry Brown fundraiser at the Middle East in 1992 with LVRS and members of Womb to Tomb, Curious Ritual, and others jumping up on stage with us for a monstrous extended version of the song that seemed to go on forever. Good times, indeed.
When I "retired" from playing out, I would still play Reed/Velvets tunes.
"I Love You Suzanne" was one I would play for my son when he was little, changing Suzanne to his name, while he would dance around the kitchen. I was just playing "Vicious" the other day on the acoustic; I've had "vicious, you hit me with a flower, you do it every hour, you're so vicious" swirling in my head for days. OMW, "Sweet Jane," "Rock 'n' Roll," "Who Loves the Sun," "Pale Blue  Eyes," some of my favorite songs to sit and strum and hum ... tons of fun ... these are just the songs I liked to play, never mind the ones I liked to listen to.
I can't stop weeping. What a effin' drag. RIP Lou. Thank you for everything.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

You can't be first all the time

The New Hampshire Press Association Better Media Awards were held last night and Patch took three of them out of 86 potential slots in the daily and special categories.
Of the three, I won in the Champion of Right-to-Know category, for my series of stories on how former Concord School Board member Jack Dunn was hired to be the district's business administrator, and the Concord NH Patch site, which I edit and manage, also won second place this year in the Best Website category.
I've lost track of how many awards I've won at this point
but the wall is beginning to get a little crowded ...
Patch in New Hampshire won three last year, including Best Website for Concord, social media in Portsmouth, and Merrimack for a video, all first place prizes.
I know that the Patch team put together a ton of excellent work this year and submitted a lot of entries - a lot more than last year, probably around 40 or 50 - and it was disappointing that more of that work wasn't acknowledged by the judges.
This is one of the burdens of being online only - print is still at the forefront of people's minds (especially those who work in the print industry), with cool layouts and big pictures, something that online news orgs haven't figured out how to replicate yet (which is understandable, since all content management systems have a standard template to work from).
Last night, at the awards ceremony, I got to thinking about it again, since the lopsidedness was so prevalent. Watching a handful of people win a slew of awards because there seemed to be so little competition in the categories was great for them. But what about the other journalists doing high caliber work? I mean, it's great to win anything at all. But if you're going to hold a race, shouldn't all the participants be competitors in the same class?
Imagine for a second that there was a 100 meter dash with six racers - five were 10-years-old and one was 20-years-old. The 20-year-old would, obviously, trounce the kids, every single time. This might be an odd analogy for some - reporters for news orgs aren't 10. But it's kind of the same when a daily news website in a small town is competing against a daily news website in a big city or a daily print newspaper in a big city with an active website. Get what I mean? It really shouldn't be competing against a big city - it should be competing about its equal, a weekly newspaper. They are in different content classes. Of course the bigger locations are going to have access to better staffing and potentially, staffers, as well as more opportune moments to write stories and take dramatic pictures.
At the New England Newspaper and Press Association, formerly the New England Press Association, the annual contest categories, linked here from 2012, are in tiers, based on weekly and daily circ - Daily Class 2 is 30,000 or more; Daily Class 1 is 30,000 or less. Weeklies run in classes that are 6,000 less or more; there is also the bi-weekly and monthly categories (In 2011, I won or co-won five awards).
Now, for NENPA, online news outlets like Patch and GoLocal are not allowed to compete because it's a "better newspaper" contest not a "better media" contest. That should probably change too, especially because online news has grown so much in Massachusetts, where most of the NENPA newspapers are from, and around New England. But you would never see, in the NENPA contest, a city daily competing against a small town weekly. It wouldn't happen. And it shouldn't happen with online news outlets either.
Absent circ numbers, unique view audience classes could be matched up with circ similar to what is done at NENPA. Or, the population of the main community served by the website could be used as a tier instead of weekly or daily. This would allow news outlets that compete in smaller communities to actually have a fighting chance at competing for awards, without the hidden and obvious bias of the way that news is delivered to readers built into the acknowledgment of excellence process.
Personally, I'm always happy to win anything, first, second, or third, it doesn't matter. A co-worker joked to me that he didn't think they would give us first place two years in a row. Frankly, it's not a huge thing; second is fine. But I hope that some changes in the structure of the awards can be considered in the future so that all the great work of my colleagues can be awarded too.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Some quick comments about the 2013 debt ceiling, federal budget issues

When looking at the 2013 debt ceiling debate (as well as the 2011 one too), as well as federal budget issues in general, it's important to remember a few things.
First, most modern presidents have raised the debt ceiling and fought with Congress about it too. But, that doesn't - or didn't - make it right. In fact, actually, it makes it wrong, especially where there are MANY things that could be done to solve the deficit and debt problems, as I have written and talked about for decades now.
Second, when watching all the bemoaning about the Republicans in Congress, etc., it's also important to remember that in 2006, when then-Sen. Obama, a Democrat, didn't support the policies of then-President Bush, a Republican, he also voted against the debt ceiling.
Here's a quote from his comments at the time:
"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better." 
Sound familiar? Yup, that's what the Republicans in Congress are saying right now, while opposing the Democratic president.
So, to all my political friends, if you believe that the Republicans in Congress are WRONG now, so was Sen. Obama then; if you believe Sen. Obama was correct in 2006, to take a stand and vote against the debt ceiling on principle, then what the Republicans are doing now is correct as well.

It's also important to add that instead of showing symbolic action by just speaking against the debt ceiling and voting, the Republicans in Congress are actually trying to 1) negotiate spending cuts in order to fix what they believe are major problems, and 2) cut spending so that the debt ceiling increase isn't needed.
The American people, from all walks of life, may not agree with what the Republicans are proposing to be cut (I certainly don't support everything they are proposing); but at least they are proposing something.
It's a far cry from Obama in 2006, or when he became a presidential candidate in 2007, or when he campaigned in 2008, or even after he became the president-elect and said the following:
"We cannot sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness, or exist solely because of the power of a politicians, lobbyists, or interest groups. We simply cannot afford it. This isn’t about big government or small government. It’s about building a smarter government that focuses on what works. That is why I will ask my new team to think anew and act anew to meet our new challenges.... We will go through our federal budget – page by page, line by line – eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way." 
That was four years, 10 months, and five days ago. How much longer do we all have to wait for the president to fulfill his promises of proposing "smarter" government while going "line by line" to eliminate wasteful government spending that we don't need and shouldn't have to pay for?

As a reminder, three years ago, the New York Times posted this interactive budget puzzle. You too can solve the federal budget problems in about 15 minutes. And this doesn't include all kinds of other ideas like bringing back tariffs, a transaction tax on Wall Street trading, etc.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

'Pay no attention to that (policy) behind the curtain ...'

An amazing economic story here ... see anything missing? "U.S. disability rolls swell in a rough economy" ...
Yup, not a peep about globalization or the fact that the free trade deals approved by both Democrats and Republicans in the early-to-mid-1990s have put our nation in a race to the bottom for wages.
It's great to do these stories and kudos to Fletcher and The Washington Post for sending a journalist to Maine to eye this issue. But if you don't look at the root cause of the reasons for why things are happening, then you are doing a disservice to everyone.
Check out this section of the story:
Benefits are hardly generous. They average $1,130 a month, and recipients are eligible for Medicare after two years. But with workers without a high school diploma earning a median wage of $471 per week, disability benefits are increasingly attractive for the large share of American workers who have seen both their pay and job options constricted.
So "disability" benefits are now better than some work even though it isn't that generous. That's nearly $13,500 a year, tax free, as well as other benefits since this is just above the poverty level. This is an average, BTW, meaning it could be more and could be less too.
Why post this, you might ask?
I'm in the process of digitizing (transferring audio from cassette to mp3) many of my old radio programs, music, local bands, records, and things like that in an effort to clear out my office while at the same time holding onto as much audio as I can. It runs in real time and I often let it roll in the background while I'm working or doing other things.
What's been so astounding about this process is the countless hours I spent talking about the trade deals and globalization with a myriad of experts during the 1990s (first broadcasting on the air in 1993 and off and on throughout the last 20 years).
One of the themes I struck at over and over again was the fact that the government would be brought to a point where if it eliminated tariffs (import taxes), we, the taxpayers, would be paying much more through taxes via various forms of welfare benefits. Program after program after program, I hammered away at the same thing - NAFTA, WTO/GATT, PMFN to China, etc. - would eliminate low skill, decent wage work and would put Americans who are in those jobs in direct competition with overseas workers who will do the job for pennies on the dollar.
Twenty years later, we've arrived (emphasis mine):
The fast expansion of disability here is part of a national trend that has seen the number of former workers receiving benefits soar from just over 5 million to 8.8 million between 2000 and 2012. An additional 2.1 million dependent children and spouses also receive benefits.The crush of new recipients is putting unsustainable financial pressure on the program. Federal officials project that the program will exhaust its trust fund by 201620 years before the trust fund that supports Social Security’s old-age benefits is projected to run dry.
Instead of that guy working at a plant in the article, making paper, you know, something important, he's riding his Harley around and we're giving him money to do it. He and millions more like him.
Now don't get me wrong - it's not an easy life to be on the fringes like this but which is better, people working productively in factories or the taxpayers footing the bill for people, essentially, hanging around? Yes, people working is better.
How bad is it? It's so bad, we're exporting the apples en masse to China, they create the juice there, and then ship it back here! Don't believe me? Read the label on the back of a $1 bottle of concentrated juice at Market Basket. The country moves the wood there too, they make furniture and paper and everything else, and then ship it all back here for sale. Over and over and over again, on every level of the economy.
And what about the climate change issues? Ships don't run on solar panels; they run on fossil fuels! Al Gore and others never talk about globalization's role in the climate crisis. As we've expanded globalization in the last 20 years, natural resources have been shipped out while goods have been shipped back in. That transportation has added all kinds of pollution to the planet that didn't exist before the 1980s. Instead, they continue to embrace free trade while not saying word one about the carbon footprint of such policies.
This isn't a "Tony pats himself on the back for predicting the future" post. I just saw this article and while thinking about all the programs I'm digitizing, I went, "Wow," in my head. I'm simply stunned that it's all come true, just like I predicted it would about 20 years ago. And in less than a generation, Social Security is going to be brought to the brink and folks like me aren't probably going to get a dime of what we've paid into the system - meaning taxes are going to go up.
So, what is everyone going to do about it?
The solutions are pretty simple - get out of the trade deals, bring the tariffs back, turn the country's business and economic focus onto localism and micro and not globalism and militarism. But at this point, it will never happen unless catastrophe, of some sort, occurs.

Tonight's moon ...

Here's another shot, this time using the tripod. Much better detail. Here's also a quick video clip.