Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Herald kicks That Guy Tai's blog off its site ...

The radio Web sites are abuzz with news about former 'FNX rocker, 'RKO talker That Guy Tai [Tom Irwin] getting booted from the Boston Herald Web site after he was critical of Howie Carr, the Herald's - and 'RKO's - marquee player: ["Tai unplugged"].
The blog, Tai-rade, which I have written about before here on Politizine, went missing after Tai reportedly stated that Carr had been phoning his show and column in. Tai supposedly offered to do the show - and the column - for free! How could Purcell pass that up? Well, since Tai-Rade disappeared quite quickly, we can all presume what happened.

Update: A quick Google yielded no results of where the new Tai-Rade Web site has landed [Note to Tai: Get it up fast so we can link it buddy!]. However, I did find some bits from a site called labs.daylife.com:

From April 24, "Leaders Vs. Followers: Howie Carr Vs. Reality":
The problem with Howie Carr listeners is that, regardless of their political stripes, they are followers. Democracy needs people who can think beyond party lines and stale prejudice. So here’s the wake up call to the lemming brigade: google “mass media” ...
From April 22, "They Said It, Not Me. Entercom Owns WRKO, Hello?:
April 22 (Bloomberg) — Entercom Communications Corp. is luring Barclays Global Investors and JPMorgan Chase & Co., its fourth- and fifth-largest investors, to buy shares even as the U.S. radio chain’s stock drops on speculation of a dividend cut. Six ...
From April 20: "Howie Carr Replaced':
Howie – I’m Calling You Out. Now hear this: I’ll take over Howie’s slot at the Herald, and his radio show – and I’ll do them both for free. Don’t ask questions about the practical complications of such a plan, just start lobbying for it, damn it. You ...
Maybe Tai should be hired by WRKO to replace Tom Finneran in the morning. It would be good radio and drive Howie bats too.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fueling Food Shortages

Guest Perspective/Ralph Nader

Where is Harry Chapin when you need him? The popular folk singer (Cat’s in the Cradle), who lost his life in an auto crash 27 years ago, was an indefatigable force of nature against hunger—in this country and around the world.

To hear Harry speak out against the scourge of hunger in a world of plenty was to hear informed passion that was relentless whether on Capitol Hill, at poverty conferences or at his concerts.

Now the specter of world hunger is looming, with sharply rising basic food prices and unnecessary food shortages sparking food riots in places like Haiti and Egypt. Officials with the U.N.’s World Food Program (WFP) are alarmed. The WFP has put out an emergency appeal for more funds, saying another 100 million humans have been thrown into the desperate hunger pits.

Harry would have been all over the politicians in Congress and the White House who, with their bellies full, could not muster the empathy to do something.

Directly under Bush and the Congress is the authority to reduce the biggest single factor boosting food prices—reversing the tax-subsidized policy of growing ever more corn to turn into fuel at the expense of huge acreages that used to produce wheat, soy, rice and other edibles.

Corn ethanol is a multifaceted monstrosity—radiating damage in all directions of the compass. Reducing acreage for edible crops has sparked a surge in the price of bread and other foodstuffs. Congress and Bush continue to mandate larger amounts of subsidized corn ethanol.

Republican Representative Robert W. Goodlatte says: “The mandate basically says [corn] ethanol comes ahead of food on your table, comes ahead of feed for livestock, comes ahead of grains available for export.”

Corn growing farmers are happy with a bushel coming in at $5 to $6—a record.

A subsidy-laden, once-every-five-years farm bill is winding its way through Congress. The bill keeps the “good-to-fuel” mandates that are expanding corn acreage and contributing to a rise of global food prices.

Of course, more meat diets in China, futures market speculation, higher prices for oil and some bad weather and poor food reserve planning have also contributed to shortages and higher prices.

But subsidized corn ethanol gets the first prize for policy madness. It not only damages the environment, soaks up the water from mid-west aquifers, scuttles set asides for soil conservation, but its net energy equation qualifies for collective insanity on Capitol Hill. To produce a gallon of ethanol from corn requires almost as much energy (mostly coal burning) as it produces.

Designed to alleviate oil imports, hold down gasoline prices and diminish greenhouse gases, corn ethanol has flopped on all three scores.

Princeton scholar Lester Brown, an early sounder of the alarm of global food shortages and higher prices, writes in Science Magazine “that the net impact of the food-to-fuel push will be an increase in global carbon emissions—and thus a catalyst for climate change.”

Can Congress change course and drop its farm subsidy of corn ethanol this year? Observers say, despite the growing calamities and the real risk of severe malnutrition, even starvation in Africa, Congress will do nothing.

Farm subsidies, once installed, are carved in stone—unless there is enough outcry from food consumers, taxpayers and environmentalists. They are paying from the pocketbook, from their taxes and health. That should be enough motivation, unless they need to see the distended stomachs of African and Asian children on the forthcoming television news.

Unless we wake up, we will continue to be a country stuck in traffic—in more ways than one.

Don’t rely on the election year political debates to pay attention to destructive corn ethanol programs. For years I have been speaking out against this boondoggle, while championing the small farmer in America, but no one in positions of Congressional leadership has been listening.

They must be waiting for the situation to get worse before they absorb a fraction of Harry Chapin’s empathy and care.

Friday, April 25, 2008

On the air tomorrow ...

Sorry for the short notice: I will be sitting in with Samantha Clemens on 91.5 FM WMFO radio tomorrow morning from 9 to 11 a.m. Since the station is located on the Somerville/Medford line, you can only hear it if you live in the area. But you can also check it out online, at wmfo.org.

Rebuilding Congress

Guest Perspective by Lee Hamilton

With their promise of new energy on Capitol Hill, congressional elections are always a time for hope. This year's contests will be especially significant, for Congress is listing and the nation desperately needs it to right itself. No single is! sue is the problem; it's Congress itself. The people we elect in November to fill the House and Senate chambers next January will need to set about not just doing the people's business, but fixing the institution so that they can do the people's business.

At some level, Americans understand this. The overwhelmingly negative polling numbers that Congress has been putting up recently may be fed in part by issues such as Iraq and the economy, but more generally they reflect widespread disappointment and scanty confidence in the institutions of government. People are discouraged by the lack of progress they see on the big issues we face as a nation. They're tired of excessive partisanship. And they're especially dismayed by political leaders who seem, for whatever reason, unable or unwilling to lead.

Congress is under great stress, then - in its internal dealings, its relations with the executive branch, and its legitimacy in the eyes of the American public. It ne! eds renovating.

Its first charge ought to be to reassert itself as a robust and vigorous institution, comparable in strength and initiative to the President. Our system relies on creative tension between a strong Congress and a strong President for the simple reason that different opinions and approaches, forthrightly stated and creatively resolved, produce the best policy. This is why Congress' willingness to yield war-making authority to the President has not served this country well; issues of life, death and entanglements abroad need thoroughgoing debate, not deference to the President in the name of patriotism.

Similarly, Congress' penchant over the past several years for letting the President largely set the budget has allowed it to sidestep responsibility for laying out and vetting the basic blueprint of government.

Congress has of late made some progress on overseeing the executive branch and holding it more accountable for its actions. This is promising, for oversight is the best means of determining whether fede! ral programs are working as intended or whether there's misconduct on the part of bureaucrats and political appointees.

But Congress needs to get even tougher. Effective oversight is not just a matter of looking at a few programs; it needs to be part and parcel of Congress' activities, especially in the routine reauthorization process that Congress has by and large abandoned. The continuing resolutions and massive "omnibus" spending bills that Congress relies on these days don't offer the chance to probe the nooks and crannies of federal agencies; they allow the executive branch to escape scrutiny, and weaken not just Congress, but the President and the nation.

This is one reason why a return to what Capitol Hill veterans call "the regular order" is crucial - taking up one appropriations bill at a time, holding hearings that investigate issues carefully, letting the diverse voices represented in Congress be heard, allowing full and fair debate on the most cont! roversial issues, and voting on all of the major issues. The tradition al, deliberative process may seem plodding, but it is how Congress assures openness and its own legitimacy in the eyes of ordinary Americans - who worry, often rightly, that shortcuts or closed doors hide decisions that wouldn't bear public scrutiny.

To be sure, even an open process can be hijacked by rank partisanship or by members determined to gum it up for their own purposes. There's no easy answer to this. In part, the solution lies with voters, who need to make clear at the ballot box that they value civility and a willingness to work on behalf of common sense and the common good.

In part, it lies with thoroughgoing ethics reform: Congress has made a start over the last year, but too many members still fail to understand how their low institutional standing stems from public mistrust. Congress must insist that all of its members reflect credit on the institution, as the basic code of conduct requires.

In the end, though, perhaps the most important ! answer lies with a recognition that at this point in our history, with the nation politically divided in the face of fundamental threats to its well-being and its standing in the world, it is the job of the Congress to try to forge consensus and national unity behind solutions to problems.

It showed it could do so with its recent economic stimulus package, although compared with the very tough decisions still facing our national leadership, cutting taxes was relatively easy.

Perhaps, in the end, it won't be able to muster a consensus on Iraq or reshaping financial regulation or combating climate change. Even so, the American people expect it to try, and when they go to the polls this November, that hope will go with them.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Concord Monitor faces economic challenges

Editor's Note: This is a corrected and edited version of an earlier post. Monitor Publisher Geordie Wilson was kind enough to respond to the first edition of this post with some clarifications which I have integrated into the original post. His full comment is posted on the OurConcord.com version of this post. This is the first in a series analyzing the news industry in Concord.
The Sunday edition of the Concord Monitor revealed some startling admissions on its editorial pages about the teetering state of the newspaper industry and what the company would be doing in the future to stay in business.
The revelations were a bit startling to many, especially those who have had a long-term relationship with the newspaper [For me, it's been more than three decades: I started reading the newspaper as a boy, became a peddler of the afternoon edition in the late 1970s while in middle-school, and have been a regular reader for years].
While they may seem awkward, these letters to readers are an important part of continuing the relationship between the reader of the news and the producer of the news. Despite the economic climate, many people are still connected to their community newspapers and Concord is no exception.
In the column, linked here: ["Tough times, tough choices for the 'Monitor'"] Executive Editor Felice Belman noted that changes were coming in order to weather current economic conditions. While not going too deeply into specifics about how bad things were, Belman said the newspaper would preserve what was important: reporting local news:

In planning for budget cuts we have been mindful of protecting what's most important: the local news report, brought to you by a serious staff of New Hampshire reporters, editors and photographers.
The Monitor will cut costs by lowering print and ink usage. It will publish tighter newspapers by dropping filler house ads and moving to a two book edition instead of four books. On Monday and Tuesday, the paper published the tighter layout with 20 pages. The previous two Monday editions were 24 pages. On Wednesday, the Monitor was a four book again, with 24 pages. Belman wrote that the changes would limit space previously available for national and international news noting that readers could get that information via other outlets [And she's correct on this point].
These types of changes are not surprising and have been the norm for a while in an industry battling to stay alive. Some have lopped off column inches from the size of their newspapers and cut other costs to preserve what is important without alienating current readers. Some have gone through redesigns in order to hide the changes from readers.
The fact that it took the Monitor so long to come to these cost-cutting conclusions is a bit remarkable considering the state of the industry. Everyone in media circles knows how bad business is and has been. As advertising revenues have been diverted to other mediums, newspaper companies have sustained layoffs [or buyouts for those fortunate enough to be union employees or highly-paid columnists] year after year in order to please shareholders. The Monitor has delayed decisions made by other companies because it is owned and operated locally and is not hounded by Wall Street worrying about 20 percent returns each year.
But there is only so much one business can sustain before making changes. Since the Monitor has been owned by the same family, it has not had to worry about market forces until now. Many of us though have suspected things might be bleak for our local daily as recently as 18 months ago.
Back in December 2006, as part of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Class, I spent the day at the Monitor's facility for our Media Day class. We did some roleplaying which was fun for the non-media types and there was also an interesting debate about news media issues in which the Monitor's circulation director Mark Travis took a cheap shot at local radio for not having a person on the panel [What he did not realize until later was that I was a member of the class and managing WKXL at the time and therefore, not invited to sit on the panel, something not lost on my classmates].
The class also received a tour of the offices and printing facility. It was great to see the new facility [It isn't all that new but to me it was since I remember the days when the Monitor's office and printing press were on Green Street, in the heart of downtown].
Since WKXL was actively seeking support from the same advertising base as the Monitor, I had some inside knowledge about the state of affairs at the Monitor. Specifically, the Radio Advertising Bureau [RAB] had provided our company with the newspaper's declining paid circulation numbers - numbers which turned out to be incomplete - and other ways of showing how the Audit Bureau of Circulation [ABC], one of the circulation bureaus used by newspapers, fudges the numbers for newspapers to make the numbers seem not so bleak.
According to Wilson, the Monitor has a circulation of just under 20,000 weekdays, and a little more than 22,000 on Sunday, based on calculations done in June 2007 by the Certified Audit of Circulations. This circulation includes Newspaper In Education sponsorships, as well as other programs, although Wilson noted in a recent email that more than 90 percent of the editions are paid copies.
The ABC figures submitted to the radio station were apparently for Concord proper only and not the entire service area. Those figures showed the Monitor with an average daily readership of 18,000 Monday through Saturday and 19,000 on Sunday, according to the latest figures available from 2005 [The Monitor claims 22,000 readers and the latest figures are not currently available without paying for them]. These figures were based on about 7,800 newspapers sold each day in Concord, Monday through Saturday, and 8,000 on Sunday. The ABC calculates circ numbers based on more than one person reading each edition of the newspaper which is sold: 2.3 people reading the weekday edition and 2.4 people reading the Sunday edition.
This mechanism of calculating readership by ABC is a great leap of assumption but is also the industry standard. Despite this standard, it seems like a completely flawed formula and probably reflects inaccurate readership numbers. How inaccurate? Well, consider other mediums for a minute.
Radio tracks listeners by recording and tabulating the decisions of the listener. But imagine what a boon it would be if a station could take its six share and multiply it by 2.3 and tell advertisers, "Well, there are three commuters in every car so ..."
Television tracks household viewership [They may multiply households by 2.3 viewers to get overall viewership but I don't know for sure. I'm sure they do this to come up with the 10 million viewer number but not the actual ratings].
The Internet tracks things by actual clicks of computers entering a site. They could exaggerate and say, "There were three co-workers leaning over my shoulder while I was on Drudge ..." but that isn't how it is done.
Weekly newspapers - at least the ones that I have worked for - talk about actual print editions sold and subscriptions sent out. They don't multiply by 2.3.
So, why shouldn't daily newspapers be held to the same standard? These comments are not posted to beat up on dailies, the Monitor, or anyone else. It is just done to show a flaw in the mechanism of counting circ and one has to wonder how they get away with it.
When I thought that the Monitor only had about 8,000 sold editions in a market population of about 120,000, I was floored and didn't believe. It turns out, these figures were wrong and not as bad as previously posted, which, frankly, is a relief.
But how could any newspaper in a small market stay alive with such a small amount of newspapers sold?
Before the Media Day class, participants of the class sat in on an editorial board meeting of the newspapers editors to watch how they decided what went into the newspaper. About seven editors sat at a table and talked about the stories of the day, including local stories, photos, sports, and other items. It was an interesting discussion to watch because there wasn't much discussion. A list was printed up of all the potential stories and a photo editor showed off the day's shots. There was a bit of banter but it was not extensive.
After the editors were done, they answered questions about the process or anything else we wanted to know about. The six people who attended the meeting and did not work in media had some interesting questions about story content, staffing, and other things.
One woman asked, "How many news reporter do you have?"
Then-Executive Editor Mike Pride stated, "13."
"How many people work on the paper itself?" another asked.
Pride said there were 46 editorial employees and 120 employees altogether.
I asked about the new publication called The Insider and why it was only distributed to the Concord subscribers and not in say, Webster, where people might find the information and content interesting.
Pride said people from outside of Concord could pick up it at newsboxes downtown.
But what if they don't get downtown?, I asked.
Then folks wouldn't get it, he said.
I then asked, Was there any thought to spending the staffing dollars beefing up the Local/Regional section instead of producing an entirely new product?
To this question, Pride bristled and stated "No" quite sharply and I didn't ask anymore questions.
This entire conversation shocked me on many different levels.
To start, I couldn't believe the newspaper had so many employees. But the numbers were later confirmed by Wilson when he gave the classmates a tour of the facility a week after the editor's meeting.
During the tour, Wilson showed off the Monitor's printing presses and some of the other publications which the company printed for other businesses. Those newspapers included The Hippo, some Spanish language newspapers, and the Sun Transcript chain on the North Shore of Massachusetts, showing that the printing presses were an integral part of the company's overall business strategy.
Issues of staffing and news production were front and center in my mind and had been for months. There had been staffing issues at WKXL, specifically, the station was losing full-time employees but not replacing key personnel in order to save money. Over a period of two years, staffing went from 15 full-timers and two part-timers at its peak, to six full-timers and a few part-timers. The six remaining full-time employees were expected to produce more content and a heavier workload than the previous 15. The six people were also expected to perform as good - if not better - than better-staffed news operations like the Monitor, NHPR or WMUR-TV Channel 9.
The production [and quality] of the local news produced by the Monitor was often used by the station's owner to criticize the two full-timers and one part-timer working on news.
'How come the Monitor got this story and we didn't?' was a regular mantra I heard.
'Eh, because they have more reporters doing less work?' [This is not a dig at the Monitor reporters. But some days when comparing the two news organizations, their 13 reporters would produce fewer actual stories than the station's 2.5 reporters, while the radio reporters also produced calendar listings, long-form programs, and numerous 5-minute audio segments on top of the actual stories].
While I didn't know this for sure, I suspected as much. After attending the class and confirming the 6 to 1 and 10 to 1 staffing level differences between the Monitor and WKXL, I mentioned to the owner that he should either hire more staff or limit the amount of criticism leveled at the station's news operation. No new staffing was hired and I returned to my previous newspaper job a few months later.
What was cool about the admission by Wilson was that he would make the admission. But also that a family business so cared about the quality of its news and its commitment to the community that it was willing to use another facet of the business to sustain that quality [WKXL should get the same consideration on a smaller scale].
In making these changes, the Monitor is clearly salvaging what its staff believes is important while at the same time attempting to survive the current economic storm. They seem minor and worthy of support by both the news consumer and the news producer. And, frankly, it is an important endeavor to make sure newspapers which focus on local content and information stay alive and vibrant.

Upcoming: The importance of local news and why it is worth fighting for. Plus, some suggestions on how the Monitor [and other news outlets] can change with the times while also staying relevant to the community.

Death defying!

One of my sisters sent me this video. Very cool:


It's amazing that any of this trail was built more than 100 years ago. How the heck did they get cement up there?

Strange lights revealed

A guy playing in his backyard, wigging people out. Wow: ["Man claims responsibility for Phoenix mystery lights"]. Now I'm intrigued. I wonder if I could do this in my backyard.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fighting for Worker Rights

Guest Perspective/Ralph Nader

Andy Stern, the president of the 1.9 million member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is embroiled in the politics of accepting sweetheart union contract deals that and, ironically is being condemned by the Wall Street Journal. What gives here?

It seems that Stern wants to put heat on the private equity funds that have bought hospitals, nursing home chains and other firms whose employees he wants to organize. He lost a clumsy attempt to get a bill through the California legislature to restrict state pension funds from investing in private equity firms. The bill was backed by some foreign countries’ sovereign investment funds.

The state pension funds—CalSTRS and CalPERS—defeated the bill and received the approval of the Wall St. Journal’s right wing editorial writers—a rare plaudit indeed. The Journal even praised the California Nurses Association for obtaining a restraining order from a California court against SEIU harassing, assaulting and stalking members of this union, which is embroiled in disputes with SEIU for what the nurses’ union says are blatant sweetheart contracts that SEIU dangles before large employers.

Are you confused?

The California Nurses Association (CNA) is a fast growing union that fights for patient rights, for adequate nurse-patient ratios and bargains for strong contracts with hospital chains. SEIU, by contrast wants membership growth even if the cost is a weaker contract for the newly organized workers.

In Ohio, the CNA exposed a SEIU deal with nine hospitals owned by Catholic Healthcare Partners. SEIU let the employer pick SEIU as its chosen union without a single signed union card. The company-union collaboration scheduled elections.

CNA sent representatives to Ohio and sounded the alarm about a top-down agreement sealed by a mutually imposed code of silence.

SEIU and the hospital chain owner postponed the election after the employees became aware of this sweetheart deal.

CNA’s actions threw SEIU into a rage. Buses of SEIU people from Ohio were sent by Mr. Stern to break up an annual meeting of 1000 labor activists sponsored by the magazine, Labor Notes, in Dearborn, Michigan. CNA’s Executive Director, RoseAnn DeMoro was scheduled to speak to the assemblage.

Shouting, scuffling, overturned chairs and the arrival of the Dearborn Police to impose order led A.F.L.-C.I.O. president John J. Sweeney, to denounce what he called “a violent attack” orchestrated by SEIU.

SEIU split from the A.F.L.-C.I.O. in 2005. SEIU aggressively raids other unions, such as the Allied International Union (AIU).

AIU fled a RICO law suit in New York against Stern’s alleged racketeering behavior and tactics to replace AIU leadership and take control of its members.

In addition, the Department of Labor is investigating a Las Vegas local of SEIU regarding possible misuse of employer funds to advance certain candidates in a local election.

All these struggles and outside charges against Andy Stern are not keeping him from moving to remove rebellious leaders of locals and consolidate power at the top. The biggest battle is in San Francisco. Dissident, Sal Rosselli, head of SEIU-United Health Care Workers West, will propose democratic changes to the autocratic way Stern runs the union at their national convention in June.

Rosselli is pushing to give local unions of SEIU more authority in contract bargaining and more voice in proposed union mergers.

Some labor observers believe Andy Stern is biting off more than he can chew. His assurance to the Democratic Party of over $50 million for the upcoming election exposes him to critics who believe he should be spending the money on and pay far more attention to getting more for his members from the large corporations he massages.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More strange things in the sky

What are these lights?: ["Unexplained lights spotted above Valley; were they flares?"]

Hillary hangs on ...

Pennsylvania

President - Dem Primary
7795 of 9268 Precincts Reporting - 84%

NamePartyVotesVote %
Clinton, HillaryDem1,035,32255%

Obama, BarackDem843,02645%
President - GOP Primary
7795 of 9268 Precincts Reporting - 84%

NamePartyVotesVote %
McCain, JohnGOP442,22272%

Paul, RonGOP97,79016%

Huckabee, MikeGOP71,63712%

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Is a Ventura Presidential Run Possible and Viable?

Guest Perspective/Rich Rubino

“He’s ba-a-a-ck!” After spending time in the political wilderness, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has re-entered the public arena, armed with a new book and a message that is predictably quite distinct from the presidential candidates of the two major parties. Ventura, currently unattached to a political party, recently stated on “Larry King Live” that running for president would be: “Too difficult, because they make an Independent like me jump through 50 different hoops, because every state has different things you have to do to qualify to get on the ballot.”

Ventura is right. It is nearly impossible for an Independent candidate to get on the ballot in all 50 states. Our political system significantly favors the large traditional political parties at the expense of the smaller upstarts.

However, despite Ventura’s valid complaint, there is in fact an avenue available that would allow him to take a run at the presidency. Ventura could seek the nomination of the Libertarian Party. The Libertarian convention is scheduled to be held in late May. The Party’s nomination will be decided by about 1000 delegates. Most importantly, the Party’s presidential nominee will likely have ballot status in almost all 50 states.

While Ventura excoriates political parties in general, he ran for governor in 1998 as the nominee of the Minnesota Reform Party. In that run, he “shocked the world” by “body-slamming” the Republican/Democrat hegemony, and winning the Governorship.

And while Ventura may disagree with many in the Libertarian movement, a great many of his ideas fall close to the center of the Libertarian philosophy. On the domestic front, Ventura clearly leans Libertarian. He is a proponent of fiscal austerity, an advocate of states rights, and is socially liberal. On foreign policy, Ventura’s position closely resembles the Libertarian Party view, especially regarding their steadfast opposition to the Iraq War. More broadly, Ventura is a vehement opponent of the Bush foreign policy.

The Libertarian Party would also benefit greatly from a Ventura/Libertarian alignment. Since its inception in 1971, the Libertarian Party has been in a steady state. Only one presidential candidate has garnered more than 1 percent of the vote in the general election. This is, in large part, because most of the Party’s nominees have failed to receive the requisite media coverage to be taken seriously by the electorate. All this could change however with a media-magnet like Ventura who has already shown that he can take on the two major parties and be successful. A Ventura nomination would thrust the Libertarian Party and its platform onto the airwaves and into American homes.

Also boding well for a Ventura/Libertarian strategic alliance is the fact that the Libertarian message has recently struck a resonant chord with a significant number of Americans. Libertarian-leaning Texas Congressman Ron Paul got a surprising number of Americans galvanized in the Republican presidential primaries. In fact, Paul raised more money than any other Republican candidate in the fourth quarter of 2007 and has become omni-present on the Internet, with almost seven million YouTube views. With Senator John McCain now the presumptive Republican nominee, and Ron Paul disavowing any interest in seeking the Libertarian nomination, there is a clear opening in the race for a charismatic figure with a Libertarian message similar to Congressman Paul’s.

How far could a Ventura/Libertarian merger go? Ventura has a significant amount of executive experience in government. Prior to becoming governor of Minnesota, he served as mayor of Brooklyn Park, the sixth biggest city in Minnesota at that time. He can lay claim to eight years of executive government experience. Some of our recent Presidents including Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush had less executive experience than Ventura. As Governor of Minnesota, Ventura presided over twice the population of former Governor Clinton’s state of Arkansas.

Ventura can also point to some real achievements as Governor, including reforming the property tax system of Minnesota, returning the state surplus to the taxpayers, and bringing a successful urban public transportation system to the state.

Ventura’s presence in the Presidential race would offer a third political platform, different from the Republicans and Democrats. For example, on the Iraq War, Ventura could make the case that the Bush administration brought the country into war with the support of the Democrats, and that the Democratic Party, despite their recent rhetoric to end the war, have failed.

Ventura could also shine a spotlight on the 800 pound gorilla the two parties do not want to face, “the national debt.” Ventura could argue that when Ross Perot brought the debt to the nation’s consciousness during the 1992 elections, it stood at $4 trillion. Since that time, under stewardship of the Republicans and Democrats, the national debt has nearly doubled. According to Ventura, every American now owes $30,000 in national debt.

Ventura could easily make the case that while Democrats raise taxes; Republicans defer them to future generations. In addition, a Ventura candidacy would appeal to a diverse cross-section of constituencies, including fiscal conservatives, gun control opponents, free traders on the right, opponents of the Iraq war, abortion rights supporters, and gay rights activists on the left.

In addition, a Ventura Campaign could capitalize on the general malaise grabbing hold of the country. In a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, 81 percent of the respondents stated that the nation was heading in the wrong direction. According to the pollster, this is up from 69 percent last year, and up from 35 percent in 2002.

A Ventura/Libertarian strategic alliance would allow Ventura to take a shot at the White House and would significantly promote a public consideration of Libertarian ideas. Ventura attracts the media, does well in debates, and has executive experience in government. This combination of factors gives Jesse Ventura the chance he needs to create political traction in a run for the presidency.

Rich Rubino, a resident of Marblehead, Massachusetts, is a political advisor specializing in independent political campaigns. He is a graduate of Assumption College and holds a Masters Degree in Journalism from Emerson College. He was a policy advisor to the Christy Mihos 2006 Massachusetts Gubernatorial Campaign.

Oh my gosh ...

Another post debate post! This one, has a hilarious video by another guy I don't really like much, Robert Greenwald, the guy who did that lame anti-Fox "documentary," "OutFoxed": ["Leaked: ABC's Stephanopoulos interviews John McCain"].

Friday, April 18, 2008

More on the debate

I'm wondering if I should bother going on about the debate. Just about everyone in the nation right now thinks it was a disgrace. However, check out this land by Dan Kennedy here: ["More about the flag-pin lady"].

In the last day or two, former Clinton Labor Secy Robert Reich, and former Sens. Sam Nunn and David Boren endorsed Obama. The Boss also endorsed him. It should be noted that Nunn and Boren are both conservatives and hawks. Reich has a good explanation of "Bittergate" here: ["Obama. Bitterness, Meet the Press, and the Old Politics"].

This is funny: ["Wrong for Pennsylvania"].

This is funny too: ["South Park: The Day The Internet Stood Still"].

I meant to post this earlier in the week but I got bogged down: ["Retailing Chains Caught in a Wave of Bankruptcies"]. This is also an interesting read: ["In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop"].
I'm not that bad but I am beginning to wonder whether or not I'm too wired. Like, for example, the fact that when I'm at work, I'm constantly on the Web. Or, the fact that I brought work home with me to do over vacation. Or, the fact that I'm eying my company Web site to make sure things are OK while I'm on vacation.
I won't do it tomorrow. But that's the thing about vacations. It really takes a couple of days to get out of the job and then, poof, you're back at the job again.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Speed Racer!


A scene from "Speed Racer."
Wow, I just saw an ad for this and I can hardly wait! I don't know about the casting though. Sure, Susan Sarandon as Speed's mom? OK, I buy that. But Christina Ricci as Trixie ... eh, no! Most of it seems to be pretty digital. More like "Tron" or a cartoon and less like "I Am Legend," which should be good.

The despicable debate

Across the Web, the comments are pretty clear: The debate was a despicable display of arrogance and elitism.
Here is a column by historian Greg Mitchell which really sums it all up: ["Clinton-Obama Debate: ABC Decides Top Issues Facing Americans Are Gaffes, Flag Pins, and '60s Radicals"].
BTW, Mitchell has written some great books over the years, including the fabulous "The Campaign of the Century," about Upton Sinclair's 1934 race for governor of California. It is, frankly, a must-read.
Andrew Sullivan, who I don't particularly like very much, called it a "travesty" and worse: ["The ABC News 'freak show'"]. And Markos over at DailyKos, another guy I don't really like much, also nails it out of the park: ["The elites"]. The elites. Exactly.
The question and follow up about the capital gains tax shows out of touch these people are. Why should some schlep killing himself in a 70 hour week job running a McDonald's somewhere get taxed more than some trust fund baby shifting money around? The fact that we are even arguing over this is ridiculous. Either drop or raise them both to equal rates. Earned and unearned income, like capital gains, should be taxed at the same rate.
As well, Gibson can go on all he wants about revenue rising when capital gains are cut as a result of what has happened on Wall Street in the past. But look at what Wall Street is doing to the nation now. Look around you. It's not that hard to see and the fact that someone like this doesn't see it is a real sticky point about debate hosting.
In many ways, their elitism is not their fault. Very few people make $200k annually. About 4 percent of Americans. But in the Stephy/Gibson circles, they all make $200k - or more. So, why should we fault them for not knowing? Well, a good reporter would know better and they clearly aren't good reporters. Devastating.
While Obama and Clinton are elites, and a good chunk of the audience are elites [do you know how hard it is to get into these types of events], the majority of viewers were not elites. Instead of having a real debate, this group talked down to the American people and proved they are completely out of touch with the world right now. And we all wonder why we can't get real information from the television.
Here is short video of attendees heckling Charlie Gibson, as if the lives, dreams, and dangers of living in America in 2008 are something to scoff about: ["ABC Hosts Heckled After Debate"].
Lastly, before I move on to real life, let me say this: If this entire process isn't even more proof of how out of touch the corporate media is in America, I don't know what is. We have seen it throughout this campaign season and I'm afraid it will probably only get worse.
Looking to the future, journalists and the American public have a responsibility to make sure that the general election debates are actually substantive, thorough, and yeah, thoughtful, addressing the real job of the presidency and the needs, hopes, and desires of the American voter, no matter who the candidates are. In addition, it is time for the presidential debate commission to allow other voices, instead of the two most popular ones, to be on the debate stage. Let Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney, Bob Barr, Jesse Ventura or whatever serious indie candidates emerge from the hustings, have some time in front of the American people.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A pathetic debate

I'm shutting it off right now.
It has taken more than a hour to get to a serious question. I have figured out the problem with these debates. I'm surprised I never realized it before. The debate hosts are playing to the political junkies and not ordinary Americans. That is why they are asking these gotcha questions.
Despite what talk radio hosts think, no ordinary American cares about the Rev. Wright controversy. They want to know why ExxonMobill can be allowed to post $43 billion in profits ... profits, while the rest of us struggle to line their pockets. They don't care about Bittergate ... they are bitter. They know they are being creamed and lied too. They don't care about the spats between the two of them - they care about health care, jobs, housing, Iraq, their personal liberties being infringed, etc. Enough already with this crap.

Clinton, Stephy Inannitize tonight's debate

Today has been a busy day for me. Our family welcomed a new boy into the world, which was quite exciting. However, while my wife was resting after the birth, I was taking a few minutes to peruse the political sites, which I haven't done in a long time.
I came across this story on DailyKos, suggesting that tonight's Clinton/Obama debate would be a pile on Obama night: ["Stephanopoulos to conspire with Hannity for tonight's debate"].
What was most interesting about this post was not just the allegation that Stephy was getting lame, irrelevant questions from Inannity but the fact that the Stephy is a former campaign director of Hillary's husband. Talk about conflict of interest. He just shouldn't be involved in the debate.
Well, after putting my other son to bed tonight, I turned on the debate for a few minutes and, poof, there was one of the lame Inannity questions about a former member of the Weathermen. Gosh, what is the political debate world coming to?

A funny co-worker

This is my co-worker Bryan. He is a great guy and so much fun to have around the office. He has a blog but I forget what it is called. Anyway, he posted this video the other day and it so cute, it's worth a look:



Update: Here is his blog: ["The Daily Blurb"]. I forgot that I posted it on the rail.

NAB2008, Part 2

No, I'm not there. But, I'm on enough lists where I kinda don't have to be in. I'm getting all the hot news. First, this ... Tim Robbins telling it like it is: ["Tim Robbins Decries Media 'Abyss' in NAB keynote"]. I knew his appearance was going to be this good when I saw it in the promo mailer I got. Do ... DO listen to the audio in its entirety. It's worth the time.

Second, from Tom Taylor, a radio guy who puts out a pretty good radio business gossip newsletter. Check out how bad things are:
To “do” the dealmaking part of the NAB Spring show, all that’s really required is stand in the lobby at the Bellagio – where the players greet their friends, re-confirm later appointments high in the secluded suites, and promise to email or phone later. The Bellagio’s the playing field where business gets done – or this year, doesn’t get done as much as usual. One dealmaker told me (standing underneath the Bellagio’s signature umbrella of giant glass flowers) that compared to previous years, “It’s kinda dead.” Why’s that?
It's kinda funny if you think about it. In September 2005, I wrote this after going to one of the super sessions:
At the same time that advances in technology put the radio business in flux, heavy-hitters from the industry are warning that more consolidation will be coming ...
A lot of good that did the industry. The whole world is re-fying and trying to make the payments. Crazy.
There are also rumors from Tom that Hannity is going to jump ship from one corporate boss to the other. Didn't I write about this rumor back in September 2006? Yup, I did. Who cares. I was a little shocked to read that Iannity brings the network $35 million. Damn, that's a lot of money.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

NAB2008 ...

While I'm no longer working in radio, I do often think about "the business" and certainly do this time of the year when the NAB show opens in Las Vegas. I was lucky enough to go to the show twice, as well as the not as impressive radio show twice, and learned a whole lot about the broadcast industry in the process.
There are some interesting headlines coming out of radio these days. Despite their attempts to polish the turd, most of the news is pretty grim. Is there anyone working in radio anymore? It seems like you are either a big star, in corporate, or a computer. Seriously though, there is always hope. There are a ton of sales jobs in some major markets, if you are into that.
I love all the focus on "localism" without actually hiring anyone local. We need to be local ... but we have laid off everyone in Syracuse ... Ahhh, the computer will do it. Too much. What will the bean counters think of next?!
One of the big stories out of NAB is the news that one of the big corporations will be dropping its Arbitron subscriptions in some markets and offering RFPs for other companies to track listeners. I don't know if this wave of criticism about Arbitron is fair. I mean, broadcasters have been complaining about the accuracy of the diary polling for years. Arbitron then answers the call and spends years moving to electronic system. And the early tests proved every bad thing advertisers thought about radio, and then the broadcasters freak out!
Anyway, I found this link on what of the emails I received. It looks like some sort of new publication by Scott Fybush called Radio Journal: ["Radio Journal"]. I've known of Scott for a long time and this is the first time I have seen the magazine. It's pretty good. I dig the layout.

Substance Not Sound Bytes

Guest Perspective/Ralph Nader

In this year’s presidential campaign, the major media want you to focus on the candidates’ gaffes, their tactics toward one another’s gaffes, the flows of political gossip and four second sound bytes.

Over and over again this is the humdrum pattern. Is Obama an elitist because of what he said about small towns in Pennsylvania? Why do Hillary and Bill exaggerate? Will Bill’s mouth drag Hillary down? Will Barack’s pastor drag him down? What about the gender factor? The race factor? Will they figure?

Who has more experience on Day One? What is McCain’s wizardry over the reporters on the campaign trail? Can McCain project any human warmth? Which state must Hillary win and by what margin to continue in the race?

On the Sunday talk shows, it is the same couple dozen members of the opinion oligopoly. There is Bill Kristol bringing home the neocon bacon with dreary frequency. There is the James Carville/Mary Matalin spouse show featuring their squabbling over ideology.

Meanwhile the daily struggle of the American people, absorbing the results of the power abuses by the rich, powerful and corporate, continues outside this inbred force field of insipid coverage and commentary.

The people hear nothing regarding what McCain, Obama and Clinton will do about runaway drug, gasoline, and heating oil prices, not to mention what these Senators have already not done in these areas of public outcry.

Disintegration is everywhere. Public works are crumbling—schools, clinics, public transit, libraries, drinking water and sewage-treatment plants. Tax dollars are being used to destroy more of Iraq and to subsidize or bail out companies recklessly run by obscenely overpaid CEOs. Public deficits are soaring.

Corporate criminals laugh all the way to the bank and back. Eighty percent of the workers have been falling behind while the growth of the economy, until last October, made the rich richer and the hyper-rich go off the charts.

One of three workers lives on Wal-Mart wage levels. Nearly 50 million Americans are without health insurance. Eighteen thousand of these Americans die each year because they cannot afford health care, according to the Institute of Medicine. The recession deepens.

The corporate giants are abandoning millions of American workers as they move whole industries to dictatorial regimes abroad where political elites dictate wages, ban independent trade unions, and given sufficient grease, reduce other costs for these companies. Only American CEOs are not outsourced in this mad dash for greed and profits.

All our democratic institutions—courts, agencies, legislatures—are bypassed by “pull-down” autocratic trade treaties like the secretive World Trade Organization and NAFTA.

Wall Street operators seethe with reckless risks and then expect Washington to bail them out. Sure, why not? Washington is run by Wall Street executives on temporary job assignment in high government positions. The big corporations are big government.

Consumers are facing rapidly rising food prices, more home foreclosures, and rising rents. They have lost control over their money, as shown by the daily gouging by credit card companies, cell phone operators and the thousands of imposed fees, penalties, and charges, so well described in the new book /Gotcha Capitalism/ by MSNBC reporter Bob Sullivan. Poverty increases.

Each year, about 58,000 Americans die from air pollution (EPA figures), and 100,000 patients lose their lives from medical negligence in hospitals and many more from hospital-induced infections. Have you heard any of the major campaigns pay any attention to these grim casualty levels?

Anxious workers feel shut out – they are disrespected, denied claims, arbitrarily laid off and just plain helpless on the shifting sands and seas of corporate globalization.

Fully 81 percent believe the country is going in the wrong directions. Almost as many believe corporations have too much control over their lives. And 61 percent polled say the major parties are failing.

Now turn on the television and radio coverage of the presidential campaign. How much of the above is reflected in the incessant distractions about tactics, gaffes and the fervid money-raising race?

Can the press and pundits ever be serious if the people do not grab hold of politics and make them become serious about their pleas, their plight and their revulsions? If voters want a concise mission statement, read the preamble to the Constitution, which starts “We the People…” /not/ “We the Corporations….”

There is a responsibility attached to those words.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bailout Bonanza

Guest Perspective/Ralph Nader

Is there a larger, more exploited, defenseless group of undifferentiated Americans than the 133 million individual federal income taxpayers? Their dollars are used to subsidize organized corporate interests, giveaway taxpayer assets like minerals under the public lands, and bail out speculative, self-enriching corporations and their crooked bosses.

As large corporations, and their trade associations, complete their takeover of the federal government—a process that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called fascism in 1938—the corporations become the government.

Just look at the recent headlines in the business press. Article after article features abuses and over-runs by companies contracting with the Department of Defense and other agencies. The enormous volumes of waste, fraud and poor delivery affecting the Iraq war-occupation now only produces ho hum newspaper and television stories.

Recently, the student loan scandals, exorbitant burdens on students graduating from college imposed on them by companies with influence in Washington, like Sallie Mae, whose government guarantees make a mockery of capitalism, have riled members of Congress to some modest action.

Once again this year, the big boys on Wall Street stretched the envelope of risk and greed and ran down to Washington, D.C. to be bailed out by the accommodating Federal Reserve. Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before the Senate that he had no choice but to take on about $30 billion of Bear Stearns obligations or there could be a run on other big banks. Where was the Federal Reserve when this credit, debt and risk spree was building during the past five years?

There is no penalty for failure—whether on Wall Street or in Washington, D.C. for misusing or wasting the taxpayers’ monies.

When the heads of Citigroup and Merrill Lynch were asked to leave their positions recently as CEOs after tanking their companies’ shares, they could barely avoid tripping over the many millions of dollars they were taking with them through the exit door. Among many perverse incentives operating within these Wall Street firms, there are rewards for failure—big bucks rubber-stamped by the look-the-other-way, well paid Boards of Directors.

Back in 1971 and 1980 respectively, the White House proposed a $250 million loan guarantee for Lockheed corp., and a $1.5 billion loan guarantee for Chrysler with the government taking back warrants that it later sold for a profit. There was intense debate and discussion at public hearings in the House and the Senate before they authorized the guarantees.

Now federal agency bailouts of big business, even Mexican oligarchs, rarely seek Congressional approval. Just have the Executive Branch do what it wants. No public hearings. Midnight bailouts without transcripts.

I asked a powerful Senator: “What are the discernable legal limits on the Federal Reserve’s bailout authority and how much total risk can the Federal Reserve heap on the taxpayers?” “Can they go to a trillion dollars?” He did not know.

Shifting deficits, debts and unfair burdens to individual taxpayers while the rich and powerful become either tax escapees or big time welfare recipients keep pushing a limitless envelope on today’s and tomorrow’s taxpayers.

The New York Times’ prize-winning reporter David Cay Johnston, has written two books “Perfectly Legal” and just recently, the best seller “Free Lunch” that document these megatrends of corporate socialism—privatizing corporate profits and socializing corporate losses on the backs of individual taxpayers.

What can be done about these gigantic runaway sprees?

First, pass legislation that broadens individual taxpayers’ right to sue in federal court against waste, fraud and abuse, including those receivers of bailouts—the reckless, avaricious corporations who have Uncle Sam in their back pockets.

Second, have a voluntary checkoff on the 1040 tax return inviting individual taxpayers to join their own taxpayer defense organization. Such a group would have millions of small dues paying members and an on-the-spot skillful watchdog group in our national capital.

Finally, place our public elections off the private auction block and have them funded by well promoted voluntary checkoffs on the tax returns together with a certain amount of free radio and television time for ballot-qualified candidates seeking federal office.

These and other proposals, such as giving shareholders more power to restrain their top executives, will give taxpayers some grip on the wide-open spigot of taxpayer dollars delivered to the misfits of the giant corporate world.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Money for Nothin, Get Your Senate Checks for Free

Guest Perspective by Rich Rubino

How would you like a job that pays $169,300 annually, includes outstanding health care and retirement benefits, two offices and a staff, and here is the best part, you don’t even have to show up for work. In fact, you can spend your time working on trying to get a better job. This dream job is that of a United States Senator.

Every election season while the Senate is in session, many incumbent Senators are absent from the Senate Chamber as the Senate debates and votes on issues which have a direct impact upon their constituents. These Senators can be seen barnstorming the country, raising money and courting voters as they run for President. Since 1960, 50 sitting U.S. Senators have sought the presidency.

Believe it or not, not so long ago there was a statute on the books, “Title 2, Section 39” which prevented this inappropriate practice. The statute is quoted below:

“The Secretary of the Senate and the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House, respectively, shall deduct from the monthly payments of each member the amount of his salary for each day that he has been absent from the Senate or House, respectively, unless such member assigns as the reason for such absence the sickness of himself or of some member of his family.”

The measure was passed in 1856, but has never been enforced. In 2005, after being on the books for nearly 150 years, the Senate exempted itself from this law. Interestingly, the act still applies to the U.S. House of Representative, but again, it has never been enforced. So the next time you see your Congressman seeking higher office while the House is in session, ask him or her if they think they deserve to be paid while devoting most of their time and effort campaigning for another job.

The most absent Senator in recent times was Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Kerry missed 72 percent of the Senate votes during his presidential run in the 2003-2004 Congressional session. Essentially, Massachusetts spent two years represented by a “very” part-time Senator.

But the citizens of Massachusetts have become accustomed to having part-time politicians. In 2006, then Governor Mitt Romney spent 220 days out-of-state, mostly on campaign business. Sometimes Massachusetts politicians even forget they have a day job at all. In 1987 Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis began a statement by saying, “If I were a sitting governor today. . . .” Well, at the time he made this statement he was in fact a sitting governor!

The greatest show of arrogance however came from John Kerry’s vice-presidential running-mate, part-time North Carolina Senator John Edwards. In his bid to become Senator, Edwards eked out a four-point victory over an incumbent Republican, promising North Carolinians that he would be “a fierce, passionate voice on the floor of the United States Senate.” Just four years into his six-year Senate term Edwards began a run for the Presidency, and later became a vice-presidential candidate. During that time he missed 42 percent of Senate votes, earning him the unfortunate moniker: “Senator Gone”

Independent-Democrat Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut won his Senate seat in 1988 partly by blaming his opponent, then Republican Senator Lowell Weicker for having “ . . . one of the worst attendance records in the United States Senate.” Lieberman added, ''He's missed votes that could have really helped middle-class taxpayers, could have helped clean up our environment, could have protected jobs.'' Weicker’s attendance rate was actually 90 percent. Ironically, in his presidential run in 2003-2004, Lieberman missed 39 percent of Senate Votes.

Calling for Government reform, New York Senator Hillary Clinton advocates the need to return to transparency and a system of checks and balances, and governmental oversight and accountability. However, Senator Clinton has become so transparent that some would say she is close to “invisible,” having already missed 27 percent of her Senate votes during the current session. If Congress is to perform that role of oversight and accountability as Senator Clinton advocates, then shouldn’t Senators be working in the Senate doing the work of the people?

Illinois Senator Barack Obama promised his constituents after being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, “I can unequivocally say I will not be running for national office in four years, and my entire focus is making sure that I'm the best possible senator on behalf of the people of Illinois." Despite this categorical statement, Obama has missed 37 percent of his Senate votes. His focus does not seem to be on Illinois. His Senate website Calendar of Events states: “There are no Senate events scheduled at this time.”

The most egregious offender of this shirking of Senatorial responsibility is Arizona Senator John McCain. While McCain advocates strongly for accountability in schools and housing programs, as of March 14, 2008 he has missed 56 percent of Senate votes. McCain is in fact a repeat offender. In the presidential contest of 1999-2000, Senator McCain missed 30 percent of the Senate votes.

Former Republican Presidential candidate Sam Brownback of Kansas missed 26 percent of the Senate votes during his recent failed campaign. His spokesperson, Brian Hart, stated that Senator Brownback “would try his best to come back for any vote where he was absolutely needed for the outcome.” Somewhere it seems to have been forgotten that a Senator’s job is much more than the simple act of voting. A Senator attends committee hearings, collaborates with colleagues, attends and participates in discussions, and proposes amendments to legislation.

To counter this abuse and to make our Senators accountable again to the people, Title 2, Section 39 should be reinstated and enforced. Taxpayers who would certainly be fired for playing hooky from their jobs should not be forced to pay the salaries for absentee Senators who openly skip work to look for better jobs. As Peter Sepp of the National Tax Payers Union states: “With Presidential campaigns turning into two-and three-year sagas, the no-work, no-pay law is more relevant than ever . . . with more campaign drama to come, hundreds of thousands of tax dollars could be wasted on paying lawmakers who are hunting for a better job than the one the people elected them to do.”

Let’s get back to making our highly paid Senators accountable to the people again: “No money for nothin!” “No Senate checks for free!”

Rich Rubino, a Marblehead resident, is a political advisor specializing in independent political campaigns. He is a graduate of Assumption College and holds a Masters Degree in Journalism from Emerson College. Locally, he was a policy advisor to the Christy Mihos 2006 Gubernatorial Campaign.

R.I.P. Charlton Heston

["Charlton Heston, Dead at 84"]

I don't care what they say about all this "living until 150" stuff. Eighty-four is a pretty good clip in my mind and we should all be so lucky. Charlton Heston was one of the greatest. Here are a few scenes from his life and career worth acknowledging:


Heston as "Omega Man," a film panned by most. But to some like me, this is a sci-fi classic and so much better than the digital animation fest remake, "I Am Legend," released late last year.


Heston as Moses, parting the Red Sea, in "The Ten Commandments." An epic considering the film was produced in 1955. Thankfully, ABC continues to run this picture around Easter and gives it the holiday respect only held for "It's a Wonderful Life," another gem.


Heston standing up for freedom via the Bill of Rights, most specifically, the Second Amendment. So lost on most these days. If anything, modern times have revealed to the American people why the Founders created the Bill of Rights and why each and every one of them should be cherished and protected. The Second Amendment isn't just about gun ownership - it is about the right of revolution. Americans should cherish, respect, and protect their rights ... or they will lose them.



And last, but certainly not least, his appearance in "The Planet of the Apes," an amazing film which was so far ahead of its time [As was the first sequel to the film]. YouTube has the most important scene - the end - online above with the total late-1960s hottie Linda Harrison.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

These are strange times ...

No comments just putting up links today. You skim them and come to your own conclusion:
["USA 2008: The Great Depression"]
["Countries rush to restrict trade in basic foods"]
["Buddy, Can You Spare a Billion?"]
["Tighten Your Belt, Strengthen Your Mind"]
["One of city's top campaign stops may go on the block"]
["We Don't Do Torture - Especially in Debates"]
["John Edwards says would not accept VP nomination"]
Last, but not least, do a Google News on "food stamps" and see what comes up. Almost 2,000 news entries. Food stamp enrollments are up in New Hampshire, Maine, San Francisco, West Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Nevada, Oregon, Iowa, and Ohio ... and that is just the first two pages of news links.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Baseball, Libraries and Taxpayers

Guest Perspective By Ralph Nader

There used to be a time when baseball parks were built by private investors—usually a wealthy local family—and the stands were full of what used to be called the “masses.”

There used to be a time when libraries were maintained and stocked as an integral part of the neighborhood and community. Not a single library closed in America due to the great economic depression of the nineteen thirties.

As illustrated so elaborately in Washington D.C. last week, the “gleaming new baseball stadium” temporarily named “Nationals Park” for the local major league baseball team, opened with $ 611 million dollars—mostly taxpayers money—going into its constructions. A Washington Post editorial crowed that the stadium was built “on time and within budget.” Why not? The cost came in at twice the estimate five years ago and its frantic construction pace reflected the priorities of the nation’s capital.

Consider one aspect of this “tale of two cities”—the depleted and disrepaired condition of the main Martin Luther King Library and its twenty six neighborhood branches. The annual budget last year was only $33 million. Four of the branches were shut down for remodeling or rebuilding three and a half years ago. The money has been appropriated. But with the sites being eyed by avaricious developers for “multi-use” complexes, among other reasons, the residents still do not have operating libraries. “On time and within budget” is not even on the radar.

Now I ask you—what is the most appropriate, profound, and respectful use of tax dollars? A ballpark built for mega-millionaire owners who could have raised their own capital? Or “gleaming new libraries” which edify a metropolis and play a critical role in educational, civic and urban renewal?

The question would answer itself were the decision made by local referendum. Polls continually showed that the disenfranchised people of the District of Columbia opposed a taxpayer-funded professional ballpark. The new mayor Adrian Fenty made this opposition a major issue in his improbable run for that office in 2006.

There is little doubt that the people would have preferred to use that $611 million (and other estimates are higher) for library renovations and acquisitions as well as neighborhood recreational facilities for participatory sports by all ages. Studies have shown that after school programs at libraries help children learn better and participatory sports—indoor and outdoor—keep physically exercised youngsters from getting into street trouble.

Nationals Park opened to great fanfare this past weekend, hailed by page after page of coverage in excruciating detail by the Washington Post. Would that this major newspaper devote such attention to the details of 27 library buildings, many of them crumbling and dysfunctional, in its home town.

When Post opinion writer Marc Fisher did devote two columns to the library’s plight in 2002, it helped spark our D.C. Library Renaissance Project, headed by Robin Diener. With library-minded citizens, this Project has brought more public attention, an increased budget and some improvement in the D.C. Library system, long considered to be in the bottom tier of library systems in major American cities.

When power is concentrated in the hands of the few, it’s small wonder that priorities are inverted to the level of the grotesque. Our national capital has been undergoing one of the biggest commercial building booms in its history. Cranes are busy everywhere, except for building the schools, libraries, clinics and neighborhood parks. Real estate developers and their customary allies—banks, mortgage firms, corporate law firms and trade associations—dominate. Not the people, who cannot even have the right to vote for two Senators and a Representative having full voting power in the Congress.

In its March 28, 2008 special, ten page section on Nationals Park, the Washington Post printed a full page “Letter to Nats Fans” by the team’s owners, the Lerner family. They profusely thanked the Mayor, the DC City Council, the corporate-welfare promoter called the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission, along with the construction firms, consultants, and workers.

Remarkably absent from their list of gratitude were the D.C. taxpayers who paid for the building that will make the Lerners and their partners even more wealthy. (These owners are in arbitration over their demand that the taxpayers even pay for the uniforms of the multi-millionaire ball players!)

The Lerners, in all decency, should name the stadium “Taxpayers Stadium.” Instead, they are shopping around the corporate groves for a company to pay to put its name on the building instead of its present “Nationals Park” designation.

Once again the boosteristic Washington Post headlined “Millions Ride on Nats’ Naming Rights.” It is the Lerners who get the millions, but Mark Lerner shared a worry, during an interview with the Post reporter while looking around the Park.

“It’s going to be a huge and expensive task between the signs on the roadways, and all the signs in here—all these neon signs. It’s going to cost a fortune—when the time comes,” he declared.

D.C. taxpayers are left to wonder who will pay for replacing these Nationals Park signs? They better check the fine print.