Thursday, July 31, 2008
Montgomery, Alabama – The Troy University Rosa Parks Museum is located on the side of the old Empire Theatre where this courageous African-American woman declined to “move to the back of the bus” in 1955.
A visit to the museum honoring her and other civil rights champions is a sobering reminder of just how courageous such a refusal was in that very segregated South. Mrs. Parks was promptly arrested and thus was launched the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott, which is credited with igniting the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s.
What most people do not know about Rosa Parks is that she was a trained civil rights worker who knew the significance of staying in her front seat and not giving it up to a white man. But she could not have predicted what happened after the police took her away.
Four days after she was arrested, the bus boycott started on December 5, 1955. A flyer distributed on that date by the Women’s Political Council of Montgomery noted the arrest of Mrs. Parks and two teenage “Negro” women—Claudette Colvin and Mary Louise Smith—who earlier that year were arrested and fined for refusing to give up their seats.
The flyer went on to urge “every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial. Don’t ride the buses to work, to town, to school, or anywhere on Monday.” They stayed off in the thousands.
Since three-fourths of the Montgomery bus riders were “Negroes,” the growing boycott grew to become a serious economic drain on the bus company. As it grew, and as the accompanying street marches and demonstrations started, the national news media began to cover it and a young charismatic minister by the name of Martin Luther King.
Sam Cook was at the Museum during our visit. He had a scrapbook of old newspaper clippings and photographs from those heady days when he occasionally was a driver for Rev. King.
In addition to the Museum’s timelines of history, artifacts, documents and memorabilia—there is a replica of the public bus on which Mrs. Parks was sitting—there are classrooms and a library to enhance the serious educational purposes for today that the Museum’s staff espouses.
The new Children’s Wing conveys to youngsters that “things just don’t happen in history—people make things happen. Visitors come to realize that they, too, can make a difference just as Rosa Parks, E.D. Nixon, Joanne Robinson, Fred Gray, Claudette Colvin, Georgia Gilmore and many others made a difference following in the footsteps of Dred Scott, Harriet Tubman, Homer Plessy and others who had gone before.”
Students today in Montgomery and other southern cities might wonder what all the fuss was about from white folk. The races mix easily in this city on buses, in stores, restaurants, cinemas, schools, hospitals and ballparks. Race, like class, still matters a great deal throughout the United States; but there has been undeniable progress.
The contemporary struggles for justice can learn from the ways the civil rights movement overcame a media boycott and moved hitherto immovable forces.
To be sure, it used the courts, and the streets with non-violent demonstrations. But never underestimate the personal story of an individual who heroically and selflessly takes on the Machine to spark the requisite rage and empathy that leads to larger and larger numbers of similarly situated people who swell the ranks of those demanding change or reform.
So powerful a model is this civil rights approach that when Mubarek Awad, a Palestinian-American youth counselor in Palestine’s West Bank tried to organize nonviolent civil disobedience against the Israeli occupation and repression, the Israeli government deported him in 1988 back to the United States. He proceeded to establish the group, Non-violence International, but he is still banned from Israel.
Commercial or labor strikes as a form of political protest received the ire of the Israelis. They would routinely break up strikes by cutting the locks on closed shops or welding doors shut and fining the shop owners.
In our country, we need the Rosa Parks of rebellion against gas and drug prices, home foreclosures, cruel prison conditions, huge up-front payments before entering hospitals, junk, obesity-illness-producing food, and breakdowns in municipal services.
Each historic, citizen-moving movement has its own style and personality. Granted, the mass media can be very picky indeed, as it has been with the soldiers who have refused to return to the unconstitutional, illegal war-occupation in Iraq. The heartfelt stories of these soldiers told at a recent “Winter Soldiers” gathering were not even covered by the New York Times or the television evening news. (But Amy Goodman did on Democracy Now!)
One must believe there is always a way to produce the human spark for a broader public morality and a deeper commitment to a more just society.
Rosa Parks, hail to thee!
Exxon Mobil reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion, up 14%, marking the largest quarterly profit ever by a U.S. corporation. Revenue surged 40% to $138 billion. Earlier, Royal Dutch Shell posted a 33% rise in profit, to $11.6 billion, as high oil prices more than offset production lost from unrest in Nigeria and weaker refining conditions.
Monday, July 28, 2008
On Tuesday, July 29 at 10 a.m. in Sen. John Sununu’s office in Manchester, New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans, and Veterans for Peace will release a report that links high gas prices to the Bush Administration’s failed policies in Iraq and the Middle East .
According to the National Security Network report, the war in Iraq, the endless talk of a conflict with Iran, and continued instability throughout the Middle East have contributed to volatility and uncertainty in the oil market. The resulting “security premium” adds as much as 30 percent to the cost of oil. The report identifies widespread instability in the Middle East — including the war in Iraq — as a major contributing factor to the high price of fuel.
In releasing the report, the group will call upon the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation to introduce legislation to lower gas prices by ending the war in Iraq. Outside the office, citizens will protest high gas prices and will hand out copies of the report to people filling up their gas tanks at the gas station across the street.
WHEN: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 10 a.m.
WHERE: Sen. John Sununu’s Manchester office: 1589 Elm St., Suite 3
WHO: New Hampshire Citizens Alliance , NH Alliance for Retired Americans, and Veterans for Peace
WHAT: Report Release, Public Demonstration, and Call to NH Congressional Delegation to end the war in Iraq
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Unfortunately, because of the makeup of the human mind and body, there is only so much that we will be able to truly understand.
But technology, including video recording by normal folks, is assisting us to capture these phenomenons, even if we don't know exactly what they are.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Dump the male flight attendants. No one wanted them in the first place.
Replace all the female flight attendants with good-looking strippers! What the hell -- They don't even serve food anymore, so what's the loss?
The strippers would at least triple the alcohol sales and get a "party atmosphere" going in the cabin. And, of course, every businessman in this country would start flying again, hoping to see naked women.
Because of the tips, female flight attendants wouldn't need a salary, thus saving even more money.
Muslims would be afraid to get on the planes for fear of seeing naked women. Hijackings would come to a screeching halt, and the ai rline industry would see record revenues. This is definitely a win- win situation if we handle it right -- a golden opportunity to turn a liability into an asset.
Why didn't Bush think of this? Why do I still have to do everything myself?
Sincerely, Bill Clinton
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader
CBS’s new reality show is called “Greatest American Dog,” with pet expert-zoologist Jarod Miller as the host. Twelve “dog-and-human teams are vying for the grand prize of $250,000. These teams are in intense training “by running, jumping, fetching and just looking adorable,” reports the Washington Post.
The show’s executive producer, R.J. Cutler requires the teams to all live together during the weekly competition at a “canine academy” where they will be carefully observed acting and interacting.
There is 5 year old Andrew, a Maltese, whose owner Laurie is a dog day-care owner in Stafford, Virginia. Then there is 1 year old Beacon, a miniature Schnauzer owned by a Los Angeles fashion designer. Beacon will have to get along with Kenji, also a 1 year old, a giant Schnauzer owned by Elan, described as an aspiring dog-salon owner in Portland, Oregon. Other dogs include a Pomeranian, an English bulldog, a Border Collie, a Boxer and a Boston Terrier named Ezzie whose owner, Michael, is an aspiring comic in Los Angeles.
“Although the dogs are beautiful, this is not a beauty contest,” Cutler cautions, adding that “the dog-owner relationship is the central part of the show.”
Non-dog owners, especially cat-lovers, may be snickering at the fastidious details and the presumed smarts of dogs. But behind this contest are standards for judging these dogs, beyond aerial tricks and obedience commands. The Post writes that “Each episode tests a specific quality, such as loyalty, courage or intelligence, and is developed to show how humans and animals cooperate.”
Ah, would that the television networks create reality shows highlighting the courage and intelligence of humans working to improve our society at all levels.
What about “Greatest Community Organizer” or “Greatest Consumer” which would include astute non-consumption or “Greatest Taxpayer” in terms of demanding and receiving efficient government services, or “Smartest Voter.” Or, what about “Greatest Mother, Father, Mother-in-Law and Father-in-Law, Grandmother and Grandparent,” “Greatest Storyteller, Hitch-Hiker, Babysitter, Gardener, Youth-Hobby-Instructor, Temper-Tantrum-Reducer, Neighborhood Myth-Buster, Complainer, Injustice Fighter,” or just plain “Greatest Neighbor?”
“Bah,” say the reality-show promoters. These “greatest” are not low enough on the sensuality ladder. Reality shows have to evoke, greed, danger, ego, adventure, sex, manipulation and self-absorption. Raw cravings!
Some of you may remember that Hollywood had a formula for popular films. Celebrities, romances of the rich and powerful, extravaganzas or thrillers, but above all don’t show the common folk for they live in Dullsville.
But, then after World War II, different films began to come to the screens. Out of war-torn Italy came “The Bicycle Thief” and “Bitter Rice” about ordinary people negotiating the travails of life. Presto, the movie screens became wider in more ways than one and a larger panorama of life entered the cinemas.
The point about these possible reality shows is that they help recognize or reinforce standards in a fast-changing, evolving, devolving society which blurs, depreciates, and jettisons standards that form the connectedness and meaning of inter-generational life lived on small-scales in small communities or neighborhoods.
Sure, such shows would require breakthrough imaginations by their creators. Knee-jerk prejudgments would not be given the benefit of the doubt.
Whole worlds of daily life would open up for audiences accustomed to being treated as Pavlovian specimens—who were, after all, dogs.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Mike Pride, who retired from the Concord Monitor recently, has a column this morning about the presumptive end of the newspaper he has enjoyed during his summers in Goshen: ["In Sunapee region, a voice is silenced"].
It is interesting to note that the story of the newspaper closing made news wires all over New England. Pride offers us his thoughts which, it is safe to assume, are probably similar to those of many readers in the area. He also takes a little bit of a cheap shot at the owners that bought the newspaper from the original owner and expanded the coverage, probably to make the newspaper more profitable. Although, he notes that the expanded newspaper did a good job of covering the communities.
As bad as things might be, there are always opportunities for those willing to take some risks. There is an ad running on WBZ and it states that most rich people make their fortunes during a down economy. While the ad sounds like a snake oil salesman ad, there is validity to the theory. Those people who have the ability right now to buy depressed properties and then hold onto them for a bit before the economy goes back up, are going to be able to make money on things they buy on the cheap now. That is how the cyclical markets work. And believe me, the economy will probably come back up, either of its own volition or subsidized by the government. It has to, one way or another. So, there is reason to believe that things will get better and that some people who have the ability, should take risks now while they can. Admit it, how worse can it get, right?
What is puzzling to me though is the lack of entrepreneurial spirit in reaction to these newspaper closings, specifically this newspaper. For example, if Pride or anyone else thinks this is such a bad thing, why not try to buy the Argus Champion and keep it alive? Sure, it's hard work. But those of us who work at non-owner-operator newspapers are doing that right now. Or, if you don't want to buy it to save it, why not prepare a new newspaper to serve the needs of those readers? Surely there is opportunity there. There isn't a mention of that in Pride's column at all. If it is so important, why not urge someone to try and save it?
Let me go one step further: Those people with connections to the industry, who know the business, would seem to have a responsibility to keep institutions like this newspaper alive. Who better than Pride to do that?
Interestingly, he doesn't offer any solutions at all. He doesn't offer any ideas, like say, having each town set up a Web site where people could post their interesting information to the communities as a solution [essentially, most news from a newspaper comes from actual people]. Surely someone with decades of experience in the business has a few ideas on how to preserve it. Or, does he just care about the romanticism of it all, like so many other newspaper people? I don't know and while I'm asking questions, I'm not trying to beat Pride up here. He owes no one anything. He spent decades as an editor and is now retired. He wants to enjoy some downtime, reconnecting with his family, traveling, etc. It is his life.
But, at the same time, good men and women have to stand up and do what is right and just in this world. Allowing 185-year-old newspapers to just die is a travesty, especially when there might be opportunity in saving it.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
It doesn't surprise me that Woodland would get replaced by someone who could potentially get out there and hustle for spots. These days, you really have to figure out ways to make it work financially and that means you have to do a bit of selling in some way, shape, or form.
The last time I saw Russell, about three weeks ago, he was working at Guitar Center in Nashua and helped me get my acoustic out of storage after the repair guy looked at it. What a weird friggin' world ...
Friday, July 18, 2008
Saturday, July 19th, The Samantha Clemens Show is live on the air for two hours beginning at 9 AM (US eastern) on WMFO 91.5 FM Medford, and streaming live on-line: http://samanthaclemens.com/Listen.html
Guest co-host: Tony Schinella. Tony is an award-winning journalist and publisher of Politizine.com.
Guests this week:
- Craig Sandler, owner and Managing Director of the State House News Service, returns to tell us all about how much debt the state of Massachusetts is in (did anyone say Big Dig?), how we're going to save money on schools, and maybe even how the state of Florida might go blue.
- Dedrick Muhammed, Senior Organizer and Research Associate for the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies and former National Field Director for Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action, returns to talk about Obama's support of delivering social programs through religious institutions, Jackson's comments, and whether there is a generation gap in the black community on these issues.
Other topics on our minds:
- Why is Dick Morris writing in www.thehill.com that the Presidential race is tied? And Mark Mellman is writing in the same issue that Obama's lead is 'wrongly minimized'?
- Should human rights be extended to nonhumans - we're talking the great apes - chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans ? Well, they are in Spain? The most fundamental right of all - the right to not be eaten for food? But, how about medical research? How about the right to not be locked up in a zoo? What about monkeys - they're not apes, but they're still kind of cute? What about giant squid? They're not as cute, but they live long and maybe be sentient?
Something you want to talk about? let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
War News Radio - beginning at 8:30 am (30 minute pre-recorded report) - War News Radio fills the gaps in the media's coverage of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan by providing balanced and in-depth reporting, historical perspective, and personal stories.
Media Minutes - 10:00 (5 minute pre-recorded report) - the longest-running syndicated radio program of its kind focused on media policy and reform. Media Minutes tracks the latest industry developments, keeps an eye on Washington policy-makers, and talks to the experts and activists dedicated to changing our media environment for the better.
If you have any questions for this week's guests, suggestions for future topics or guests, comments on our show, would like to get on the email list or have an event that you would like us to mention on the air, send them to email@example.com.
The New Hampshire Coalition for Public Funding of Elections is pleased to announce the appointment of the Public Funding of Elections Commission.
Established by HB794, the commission will develop a plan to create and fund a voluntary system of public financing for election campaigns for the offices of governor, executive councilor and state senator. The commission’s report and recommendations are due December 1, 2008.
The commissioners were appointed for their expertise in public funding of elections, their knowledge of state budget issues, and bipartisan balance. They are:
Stuart Comstock-Gay, Concord Democrat and director of the Democracy Program at Demos: A Network of Ideas and Action,
Abigail Abrash Walton, Independent from Keene and faculty member at Antioch University New England;
John Rauh, New Castle Democrat and president of Americans for Campaign Reform;
Jim Rubens, Republican, former state senator from Etna;
Martin Honigberg, Concord Democrat, attorney at Sulloway and Hollis;
Brad Cook, Republican from Manchester , attorney at Sheehan, Phinney, Bass, and Green; and
Barbara Hilton, Independent Citizen Activist from Portsmouth .
Comstock-Gay and Abrash Walton were appointed by the president of the senate; Rauh and Rubens were appointed by the speaker of the house; Honigberg and Cook were appointed by the governor, and Hilton was appointed by the secretary of state.
Research by the New Hampshire Coalition for Public Funding of Elections shows that the cost of running a successful campaign for state senate can reach as much as $100,000. This effectively bars many qualified people from public service. Public financing of elections makes it possible for a wider range of people to run for office. Candidates qualify for funding by gathering a certain number of signatures and small dollar donations; once they agree to certain conditions, such as using no private money and participating in a certain number of debates, they are provided enough money to run a competitive race. The system is voluntary—no one is required to use it. But those who opt in can use the time they would otherwise spend with big donors talking with voters about issues. Once elected, officials answer only to voters, not donors.
Public funding of elections enjoys broad bi-partisan public support in New Hampshire , which is still poised to become one of the first states in the union to adopt it, after Arizona , Maine , and Connecticut .
Commissioners and legislative leaders alike agree that the commission’s greatest challenge will be to find a way to finance a public funding of elections system in the current economic climate. Undaunted by this challenge, Commissioner Rubens said, "The state's budget difficulties are no less pressing than our need for a campaign funding system that restores the primacy of voters over donors. I am confident that this commission has the ingenuity required to find the needed funding sources.”
The New Hampshire Coalition for Public Funding of Elections includes individuals who have long fought for public financing—including Doris “Granny D” Haddock, and citizen organizations such as the League of Women Voters and New Hampshire Citizens Alliance.
This is pretty exciting news and actually, a very good cross-section of individuals on the Commission.
It is also nice to see two "independent" members on the panel because I fear that whatever plan gets created, independents and "non-credible" candidates, in the eyes of the major parties, will be kept out of the loop.
That is my problem with Americans for Campaign Reform, John Rauh's group. In their plan, indies are not included, at least that is what he told me back in 2004 when I interviewed him for a radio station in Boston I was doing reports for. Maybe it has changed since then. Unfortunately, the fear of "non-credible" and "independent" candidates getting the funding is used to keep different candidates other than the two major parties from getting access. It happens all the time. The example that is usually given is that candidates from some obscure party like the American Nazi Party or something will get the funding. It is a lame excuse and illegitimate excuse. But, you know, in reality, what is good for one party should be good enough for another. Any public funding plan must include funding for independent candidates, whether "credible" or not, with no extra restrictions than the major party candidates will have. Credibility is in the eye of the beholder.
In addition, I would like to see them expand the coverage to Legislative candidates as well. While some may think only the big races need money, the small races do too. There are competitive races there and it takes a lot of money and time to bump off an entrenched incumbent.
Lastly, I think the biggest problem about "qualified" people not running is the fact that state reps. and senators don't make any money! Few "qualified" people who aren't already rich are able to run for those seats because they take too much time away from earning a living. Now, don't me wrong, I love the romanticism of the "citizen" Legislature. I also have seen how corrupt the system can become when the job of legislator becomes a well-paid endeavor. They become entrenched and you can never get rid of them.
That said, another commission should be set up to analyze this problem too.
We are at a profoundly unsettled time in our nation’s history, with more than two-thirds of Americans professing in surveys that they believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. They are partly reflecting concerns of the moment — the Iraq war, high gas prices, our economic travails — but polling also shows a more deep-seated dismay at the track our political system has taken.
Our politics is fragmented and often mean-spirited. Americans are disappointed by a sense that we lack unity and national purpose. They are disillusioned by a political leadership that has failed to instill these things, and many believe they and their concerns are unrepresented in the halls of power. Faith in our system is ailing.
So while out on the hustings the talk is mostly of policy — what to do about the economy or our standing in the world or our dysfunctional health-care system — there is a more fundamental conversation that ought to be happening, as well: If we are to fix our government so it works competently, effectively, and democratically, how should we go about it? What would it take not only to revive our system, but also our people’s faith in it?
My answer may seem odd, given how badly askew most Americans believe things have gotten: Rather than “fix” our representative government, we need to let it function as designed. We have to return to the basics of our constitutional system, understanding and appreciating its intent and contemplating how this might apply to our vastly changed circumstances today.
It’s worth remembering that the basic operating manual for our government was written some 220 years ago, when we were a much smaller, less complicated, less diverse nation, when communications and events moved much more slowly, and when the sheer breadth and scope of challenges facing the government — while hardly minor — were more manageable. If anything, it’s remarkable that our system continues to work even reasonably well.
Still, things are out of whack. Too much power has come to rest in the president’s hands, and it needs to be spread more widely again — the “balance of power” should be observed in actuality, not merely in seventh-grade civics class. As Alexander Hamilton said at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, “Give all power to the many, they will oppress the few. Give power to the few, they will oppress the many. Both therefore ought to have power, that each may defend itself against the other.”
We also need to accept that there will inevitably be conflict — our system presupposes it — but that winning political battles is not the highest good; rather, resolving conflict within the confines of the Constitution and according to democratic principles trumps the victory-at-all-costs mentality that has been so prevalent in recent years. Compromise and accommodation, especially in a nation with so many varied interests at play, are the key to policy success and political legitimacy.
This, in turn, means tolerating and encouraging lively debate and thorough deliberation — both in Washington and among a population that seems to be losing the habit of listening to those with whom we disagree. For lawmakers and Americans in general to accept the results of political compromise, they have to feel they’ve been represented in the discussion.
All of which is to say that what our Founders knew, and tried to ensure, was that in governance, the means are more important than the end. The process matters more than the result, in part because a legitimate process is the only way to ensure that those in government collectively focus on the common good, and in part because resolving our policy dilemmas requires a focused and functioning representative government.
Yet even if all these things happen, restoring Americans’ faith in the system will require one other thing: patience. While our government needs to respond to the demands of its citizens, under our system the response is typically slow because it’s meant to be slow.
Our government was not designed to respond to every passing fancy of the people, but rather to give judicious consideration to the nation’s needs. Nor can it solve all of our problems. Our representatives may strive to sort out the hopes, desires, and dreams of the American people, and to come up with the best solutions they can, but the plain fact is that some problems are so difficult and our perspectives so varied that only stalemate is possible.
Our expectations, in other words, need to be high but realistic. We should expect a government that encourages cohesion and political stability, and safeguards individual freedom, prosperity, and peace. If it can do that, then the fact that it can’t resolve every problem we confront will come to seem a tolerable imperfection, rather than the dismaying infirmity that so many Americans believe it to be today.
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.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Here they go again! Financial capitalism is crashing. So the lights are on late in Washington’s Federal Reserve, SEC and Treasury Department trying to figure out how socialism (your tax dollars and credits) can once again bail out these big time gamblers with our money.
Every cycle of casino capitalism that heads for, or goes over, the bankruptcy cliffs gets larger and larger. This year’s collapse towers over the bailout of the Savings and Loan banks in the 1980s.
This unfolding cycle of the Washington to Wall Street gravy train is not based on a huge spike in interest rates that tanked so many thrift institutions nearly twenty years ago. It is based on unbridled greed by the bosses of these big commercial banks, investment banks, brokerage giants and those two goliaths—Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
“Unbridled” because the financial institutions got themselves unregulated during the reign of Bill Clinton and his Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Rubin skipped out of town to become a wildly overpaid official with Citigroup—the leading lobbyist for his disastrous, so called Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999.
Fannie and Freddie have been deeply unregulated for decades which allowed their capital ratios to be lower—far lower—than even investment banks like Morgan Stanley. With that long-time implicit guarantee by the federal government, these two secondary marketers for home mortgages became more and more reckless so as to raise the corporate profits that their top executives need to skyrocket their personal compensation packages!
In 1991, lawyer Tom Stanton warned about the risks and non-regulation of Fannie and Freddie in his prophetic book—"A State of Risk" (Harper Business).
A decade ago, our banking specialists warned about the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) under assessing its member banks thus leaving its reserves at the risk of being perilously low when needed. Today, these reserves are very much needed and perilously low.
Combined with the limitless greed, unbridled corporate power can wreak havoc with our entire economy. As it is doing now. The domino effect is underway.
So the Bush boys and the Congressional leaders, so to speak, are busy reassuring the investors that they will in some way make things stable. This time, however, they seem to be offering too little too late and the investors aren’t buying.
The stocks of the banks keep plunging down anywhere from seventy to ninety percent from their last year’s high.
The nation’s largest savings bank—Washington Mutual—closed at under $4.00 per share down from over $40 last year.
Again and again, year after year, the CEOs and the patsy federal agency heads have lied to the people about the financial status of these corporations. There is no credibility left and therefore no confidence. Over three trillion dollars is sitting in disbelief on the sidelines. Trillions of dollars have been looted or lost in the meantime, draining worker pension funds, mutual funds and the savings of small investors.
None of this had to happen. Regulation against conflicts of interest and hyper risk taking could have stopped it, including preventing the housing mortgage crisis. Empowering investor-owners could have headed it off. But Washington-based right wing corporate funded think tanks and the banking lobbies battered down the regulatory guards and the federal cops.
So now only the American taxpayers and their creditworthiness inside a deficit-ridden government and a debt-loaded Federal Reserve stand in the way of a far bigger financial collapse than the stock market crash of 1929. Will it be done smartly this time around?
First, a newspaper up the road from me with a 180-plus year history, one of the oldest newspapers in New Hampshire, is closing next month: ["Weekly 'Argus' ending publication"].
Second, the layoffs are continuing everywhere: The WSJ is cutting 50 editing positions and raising its cover price; the AJC in Atlanta is cutting 189 jobs; etc.
Lastly, there is this, from Editor & Publisher, about the company I work for: ["GateHouse Stock Could Be 'Worthless'"]. I don't like to talk about my work stuff on my personal blog but this seemed relevant enough to post considering the state of the business. Folks are talking about the story over at Dan Kennedy's Media Nation, including some GateHouse employees chiming in: ["GateHouse financial outlook dim"].
FTR, in case anyone is wondering, I am not one of those employees. When I post at Media Nation, I always sign my name. The Newspaper Beat columnist over at E&P has an interesting column here: ["The New Single-Digit Newspaper Stock"]. You gotta love this closing line:
The newspaper industry's strategy of shrinking newsroom and newshole seems not to be helping their shrunken stock prices.Gee, you think?
I may post a note later this week on MediaNation when I get a free minute. However, I will say that I'm glad I took a broker friend's advice and didn't buy our company stock when it was $18 a share last year [it closed at $0.97 a share today].
Update: The Boston Herald has a story about the closing of two GateHouse newspapers with the company preferring to have readers go to the area dailies and Web sites: ["GateHouse shuts 2 papers"]. This seems like a completely logical move although I don't know much about the situation at all since I don't work near those newspapers.
I'm glad to read that some of our management team aren't worried about the debt load and how things are. That said, everyone will just keep plugging away like we always do, providing the best community news we can all provide.
Barring a major collapse, this is probably the last I will write about my company's situation. I will, however, continue to provide more analysis on how newspapers can survive during these difficult times, which is a difficult situation entirely. Newspapers, like radio, TV, and the Internet, are important. It is more than just about having a job for a lot of us. Even if I were not employed by a newspaper or media company, I would be saying the same things. It's all about what you know and when you know it. It's about the public getting important information about what is going on. It goes beyond everything else and that is how I see it.
And BTW, this is a pretty simple question with a simple answer: Yes!
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
He thought it might be a good follow up to my post about ways the newspaper industry could save itself. I skimmed his post but the attached PDF is 48 pages so I will have to check it out at another time ... when I have more time.
That said, Simon's blog has some pretty interesting stuff on it. I will definitely have to check out more of it later.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
I'm forever reminded about "party loyalty" thing and how the Democrats are always all supposed to stand together, come together, for the betterment of the nation and party ... even if that unity can be to the detriment of many in the nation [think NAFTA, the dot-cons, and the fact that Jerry Brown would have been a much better president than Bill Clinton]. This unity is demanded it seems, unless you are with the Clintons and you don't do what the Clintons want. And then, as we see with Ms. Iscol, you can use political blackmail and personal phone calls to try and get your way or in this case, the Clinton's way.
I sense though from this article and the third-hand reporting of the conversation, that Barack Obama is not going to pick Hillary Clinton as his VP. As I have joked on this site, if he did pick Hillary and won, he better make sure he has someone in the White House checking his food before he eats it. That said, it isn't an easy decision. I mean, with Clinton folks blackmailing you for their support, what is a candidate to do?
This isn't the first time this has happened inside the Democratic Party and it won't be the last. But, like the other times, I as a voter will remember and decide accordingly. As well, I will do everything I can to convince people that we need to be voting for the candidate and the health of the nation, and not the party. Blind loyalty to party politics is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Update: I want to add a couple of additions here. First, it is important to remember that this belligerence is not just within party circles but outside as well. Let's not forget what has happened to folks who decided that Ralph Nader had earned their votes or those people who wanted - or want - to form Green Parties across the nation. Those people [me too] were pilloried for "costing" their people elections here and there. Well too effing bad. Clinton cost millions and millions of hard working, decent wage, low skill workers their jobs and he, along with Bush 41 and Bush 43, have brought this nation to the brink of bankruptcy. Enough already.
Obama would be smart to not put Hillary Clinton on the ticket. It is the best way to go. She is too divisive. Frankly, like many, the Clinton people have nowhere else to go. They aren't going to go to McCain or, if they do, many will use this against them in the future, especially when issues like abortion come up. If Dems go with McCain then they can go to progressive indies or Greens without future fear of retribution. That will be my talking point.
If Obama needs a woman, there are others to pick. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio is one stellar choice from a swing state. In addition, John Edwards should be in the cabinet, specifically Attorney General, although, admittedly, Edwards supporters have nowhere else to go either. That would just be a good move on Obama's part.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Thursday, he posted this about the Phoenix's Adam Reilly's story about more employment changes at the Boston Globe: ["Moving on at the Globe"].
I waited a bit before posting but this has been on my mind for a while, obviously, because I work in the industry. Here are some of the thoughts I posted:
I don't know about all of this. I have been thinking about everything going on in the media business for quite a while now and I truly don't know what the model is. I have some ideas, which I will get to in a second.
This is what I do know: Print editions provide much more than online editions. For example, I've been subscribing to the WSJ now for about three years. I started buying it after I got a free copy outside the hotel room at a radio seminar I was at. I loved the thing and subscribed right away. There were a ton of articles about all kinds of different aspects of the business world and other things. When the redesign happened, I was even more excited since it was even more user friendly than before. I also got to check out how the big companies were marketing themselves to the investor class, something worthy of a longer article in the future.
However, almost the entire first year, I had delivery problems. The problems were so bad, that I had about two months worth of free editions racked up because of missed delivers. After that, I let the subscription lapse. But they kept calling me back and after complaining and complaining, I re-subscribed. Thankfully, the delivery problems haven't returned.
When the subscription lapsed though, I used the online edition and whatever I could get for free online. But it wasn't the same. I couldn't watch the marketing. I couldn't check out the auction ads in the back, which lead me to learn about the housing crisis a year or so before most people knew it was going to happen. It just wasn't the same thing. I guess if I could get the entire newspaper delivered to me in PDF that would be an adequate replacement to not receiving the print edition. But the current format of most newspaper Web sites is not really a replacement for the physical newspaper, even though we all get a lot out of it.
Here's another example of the worth of the print edition of the WSJ: T. Boone Pickens, of BP Capital, has been running ads about this plan he has to convert huge sections of our electricity to wind machines built in the Southwest and save the nation. It is an ingenious plan and something I have been talking about for years. But I never would have heard about it had I not seen his ad. Days later, he was on CNBC and the financial press put together some stories about the plan, which later made the national wires. But that was days later. I got to see it right away. First. Just like everyone else who saw the ad and turned their computers on that morning to read his plan. I didn’t have to wait for the news filterers. I saw it because he was marketing the idea directly to readers of the print edition.
The same can be said for just about any newspaper. You can get a lot of information into a print ad that you can't get online. Sure, you can lead a reader to a link to a Web site. But it isn't the same as instant information to the consumer. There is also just something about having the physical newspaper in your hands. Yeah, OK, it’s romantic and all, but it’s the truth. Don't get me wrong: I love the fact that we are interactive. I love what we are doing at the company I work for and what other companies are doing. Everything is instantaneous and now. But it is not a replacement for the physical newspaper.
As far as preservation ideas, here are some right off the top of my head that might work at preserving our business model.
First, hybrids and diversification where different platforms can work together is the way to go. The FCC was right to loosen the regulations to allow daily newspapers to own radio stations. The problem is that they should have reregulated radio stations after that in order to break up the radio companies and create more competition and ownership opportunities. Right now, a lot of mom and pop radio stations have weekly shoppers or newspapers. They need the revenue from the shoppers to survive. Why can’t dailies have radio stations? As well, it is clear that in this media age, it isn’t enough to survive with just a newspaper and a Web site. People flip around. But if you can get them at every point they are flipping, you have the market. Imagine if the Globe or the Herald also owned WTKK, WRKO, or WBZ, and/or a TV station along with a print and Web presence. Think of the possibilities. A one-stop shop for advertisers and marketers, as well as news customers, with each platform helping the other get the story better, stronger, faster. It’s a no-brainer.
Second, the newspaper industry needs to build value into its print product. We need to FIGHT to preserve our print editions and do whatever we can. Because that is where we make most of our money. We shouldn’t be cannibalizing our print editions online and giving people a reason to cancel their subscriptions. At least not yet. Let’s try and drag this out as long as possible and make as much money as possible while we can. Because, and let’s be honest: Web ads are never going to be able to pay for the cost of creating most of our newspapers. When we go to Web-only, it isn’t going to be the same. There will probably be 10 percent of the employees currently working in the industry that are working in it now. So, let’s understand this and fight to preserve our platform. This starts with educating the public that it is important to set aside some time in their days to read the newspaper. The public needs to know and understand their world and community. It’s an investment in their future and their children’s future. It’s as important as an IRA. Otherwise, who is going to tell the public the stories? How are we going to find things out? We don’t know enough as it is. It’s friggin’ important. That is why I spend so much time reading newspapers before I even go into work.
When marketing the print product, it really isn't enough to say, Hey, subscribe for 50 percent off the cover price now! We should be constantly out there trying to keep the print editions alive. That seems to be the first step. What is so odd to me is that it seems as though all of the corporate people have just given up on print – or even getting as much revenue as possible from it while they can. Instead, they have us spending countless amounts of hours a week on Web stuff which brings in virtually no revenue. Granted, it is neat and a ton of fun. But if we are a “dying” industry and 90 percent of money comes from the print editions, shouldn’t we all be doing everything we can to not only make the print editions better but worth the money a customer invests in it? Why does it seem like the grunts on the ground are the only ones fighting to preserve our industry [generalizing, again, reading too much of the WSJ maybe ...]
Third and I’m not going to claim to know a ton about this because I don’t work in newspaper sales, but there clearly needs to be a better sales strategy for print editions. For example, I know of at least one daily newspaper that won’t budge on the ad rate and would prefer to have fewer pages or house ads than paid ads which are less than the standard rate. Compare that to radio stations, which fluctuate the rate based on the inventory available on a quarterly basis. If there are a ton of minutes available, there is a fire sale to fill them. There are even new companies that have emerged like Bid4Spots that put the station’s excess inventory out to vendors and have them bid on the spots. While the spots are below rate, it is still money. I know that last year Google was considering doing a similar program with display ads in the major dailies but I don’t know what came of it.
We also need a better strategy with press releases. At CNC, we are constantly hit up to put free press releases into our newspapers by public relation firms. It is unruly and unrelenting and I spend way too much time dealing with them. These companies pay the PR firms to do this instead of just buying an ad. When we say No, or put rules on how they can get in for free, they get ticky. Well, you know what? If it’s an ad, it’s an ad, and we have to eat too. There is no newspaper without the ad. One idea I had was to create some in-house PR people, to work with sales staff, to market services to companies and take away some of this PR money. Some print companies do that with special sections. But it should be expanded.
Lastly, and probably most worrisome for the corporate types, I also think the future of the news business is some sort of non-profit model similar to what NPR does only with commercial advertising. I don't know how that can be done with all the debt that has been collected from the acquisitions of this company or that. But this constant worrying about quarterlies or what Wall Street wants is killing the business. It is killing what we have to do to deliver news to the public. And therefore, it is harming the public.
As well, and I almost cringe when I say this, but maybe union folks taking 10 percent cuts at dailies in order to keep them alive isn’t such a bad thing … that is, unless the management bonuses don’t stop too. One also has to wonder how long the dailies can pay union reporters $50k to $60k to write a story a day when reporters at weeklies make half that and editors make not much more, and yet they produce more content.
In the end, the changes may come too late – when there is no daily newspaper to save.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
State: New Hampshire
Obama - 40%
McCain - 37%
Barr - 10%
Nader - 2%
Someone else - 7%
Undecided - 4%
McCain, Obama nearly even with Independents. In a tight race, will 9% stay with Barr and help Obama win the state
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
July 7, 2008
One day when I was about eight years old, my mother tossed one of her frequent “out of the blue” questions at me:
“Ralph, do you love your country?”
“Yes, mother,” I said, wondering where she was going with this.
“Well, I hope when you grow up, you’ll work hard to make it more lovable.”
Thus, began my education in the patriotism of deeds, the patriotism of advancing justice. The country was in the middle of World War II and the spirit of patriotism was engulfed by the war effort, by the heroics of our armed forces against the fascists, and, for my parents, by my brother Shaf’s impending enlistment into the Navy.
Still, having come as teenage immigrants from Lebanon, during the Ottoman Empire and French mandate periods, my mother and father were very sensitive to any monopolization of patriotic symbols—flags, anthems, the July 4th holiday—to induce public obedience. They were wary of how many politicians would use and misuse these symbols to stifle dissent, hide abuses and manipulate public opinion. They rejected both political and commercial manipulation of patriotic feelings for narrow, often harmful self-serving ends.
Of course, the factory town of Winsted, CT where we grew up had its July 4th parade with marching bands, flags, proud veterans and assorted ceremonies. Its mile long Main Street was perfectly suited for these festivities. Plenty of fireworks in plenty of youthful hands too. We all had a general good time.
During one such Parade, it suddenly occurred to me that no one had ever marched holding up a large replica of the Declaration of Independence, which was the reason for the celebration that day. Other than being printed in its entirety by some newspapers, this bold Declaration whose eloquent assertion of human rights was heard around the world for many years, still is not front and center for historical recollection and contemporary contemplations.
My parents prized the freedoms they found in America, and they were alert to anyone who might try to diminish them. At his sprawling restaurant on Main Street opposite the textile factories, my father would always speak his mind. He was a constant critic of power – big business, government, local and national – and readily offered solutions.
His longtime customers and friends would sometimes say to him: “How do you expect to make a profit if you keep speaking out this way?” He would smile and say: “When I passed the Statue of Liberty, I took it seriously,” cautioning them with this advice: “If you don’t use your rights, you will lose your rights.”
At the same time, he would challenge attempts to monopolize and debase our country’s symbols of flag, pledge and anthem into an unthinking patriotism by politicians to cover their sins. As Dad often reminded anyone who would listen, our flag stands for the principles embodied in the last words of the Pledge of Allegiance – “with liberty and justice for all.”
There has always been military patriotism. There is more and more commercialization of the Fourth of July. In our hometown, we were raised to respect and nurture a civic patriotism.
As my brother Shaf said many years later: “A true love for the community of human beings that is our country is expressed when each one of us helps define that patriotism by our deeds and thoughts working together.” And, he set a wonderful example when in 1965 he founded the Northwestern Connecticut Community College in town.
Maybe we should start reserving time on the Fourth for assessing the ways forward toward expending those “inalienable rights – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Ralph Nader is the author of The Seventeen Traditions (Harper Collins, 2007), a remembrance of the ways his parents raised their four children.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Zogby's interactive poll, which is compiled from more than just random phone calls, has Barr at 6 percent, I think the highest he has ever been, and Nader at 2 percent: ["Building Mo-Bama"]. Zogby also gives Barack Obama a 273-160.
Over at CNN, a new poll with Opinion Research has Obama with a slim lead and Nader at 6 percent and Barr at 3 percent: ["Obama, McCain in a statistical dead heat"].
According to John Nichols over at the Nation ["An Opportunity to Open Presidential Debates"], Nader believes that if he is at 6 percent, he could potentially go up from there, especially if allowed into the Google/YouTube debate. The threshold for that debate is 10 percent, a bit lower than the usual 15 percent. Nichols surmises correctly that if Nader is included, why not Barr and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney too? He closes with this:
An Obama-McCain-Nader-Barr-McKinney debate would be less crowded than most of the Democratic or Republican primary debates, and much less crowded than the debates in the last French presidential election. But it would still be sufficiently energetic and ideologically diverse to boost the quality of the presidential dialogue and give America something closer to a genuinely democratic discourse.Sounds reasonable to me.
According to a press release on his Web site, "The Chuck Morse Show" will air from noon to 2 p.m. at WCCM 1110 AM out of Methuen, Mass. While the station is based on the state line, the 5,000 watt signal can be heard from Hooksett to Nashua to Lowell, around the Merrimack Valley, over to Salem, and then back up, almost like a catcher's mitt without the thumb [I lose the signal in the car just north of Manch].
The last we heard from Chuck, he was over at WSMN 1590 out of Nashua hosting "Talk Back." Before that, he was at Fitchburg's WEIM and also did a stint at WARL in Attleboro. Morse has also had programs at other stations in the Boston area, including WROL and WBPS. Morse got his start in radio back in the mid-1990s at WMFO where I got my start in 1993. "Talkers Magazine" listed Morse as one of the "Hot 100 upcoming talk show hosts in America" in 2003 or 2004, I can't remember.
WCCM is owned by The Costa Eagle Radio Group, a company partially owned by the Lawrence Eagle Tribune.
Related sites: http://www.1110wccmam.com/ and http://chuckmorse.com/.
Over on the Republican side, there isn't a lot of news out there. Mitt Romney is still the odds-on favorite, according to folks in Las Vegas.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
UPDATE: The link is broken, here is the full text of the story:
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
I do recall Patrick Buchanan saying on the night of the Iowa Caucuses in 2004 that Republicans were breathing a sigh of relief that Gephardt had come in fourth because insiders thought he would beat Bush and he probably would have. So who knows. Very interesting [planted] story though.
The worst top management of giant corporations in American history is also by far the most hugely paid. That contradiction applies as well to the Boards of Directors of these global companies.
Consider these illustrations:
The bosses of General Motors (GM) have presided over the worst decline of GM shares in the last fifty years, the lowering of GM bonds to junk status, the largest money losses and layoffs of tens of thousands of workers. Yet these top executives are still in place and still receiving much more pay than their successful counterparts at Toyota.
GM’s stock valuation is under $7 billion dollars, while Toyota is valued at over $160 billion. Toyota, having passed GM in worldwide sales, is about to catch up with and pass GM in sales inside the United States itself!
GM’s executives stayed with their gas guzzling SUVs way beyond the warning signs. Their vehicles were uninspiring and technologically stagnant in various ways. They were completely unprepared for Toyota’s hybrid cars and for the upward spiral in gasoline prices. They’re cashing their lucrative monthly checks with the regular votes of confidence by their hand-picked Board of Directors.
About the same appraisal can be made of Ford Motor Co., which at least brought in new management to try to do something about that once famous company’s sinking status.
Then there are the financial companies. Top management on Wall Street has been beyond incompetent. Wild risk taking camouflaged for years by multi-tiered, complex, abstract financial instruments (generally called collateralized debt obligations) kept the joy ride going and going until the massive financial hot air balloon started plummeting. Finally told to leave their high posts, the CEOs of Merrill-Lynch and Citigroup took away tens of millions of severance pay while Wall Street turned into Layoff Street.
The banks, investment banks and brokerage firms have tanked to levels not seen since the 1929-30 collapse of the stock market. Citigroup, once valued at over $50 per share is now under $17 a share.
Washington Mutual – the nation’s largest savings bank chain was over $40 a share in 2007. Its reckless speculative binge has driven it down under $5 a share. Yet its CEO Kerry Killinger remains in charge, with the continuing support of his rubberstamp Board of Directors. A recent $8 billion infusion of private capital gave a sweetheart deal to these new investors at the excessive expense of the shareholders.
Countrywide, the infamous giant mortgage lender (subprime mortgages) is about to be taken over by Bank of America. Its CEO is taking away a reduced but still very generous compensation deal.
Meanwhile, all these banks and brokerage houses’ investment analysts are busy downgrading each others’ stock prospects.
Over at the multi-trillion dollar companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the shareholders have lost about 75 percent of their stock value in one year. Farcically regulated by the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, Fannie and Freddie were run into the ground by taking on very shaky mortgages under the command of CEOs and their top executives who paid themselves enormous sums.
These two institutions were set up many years ago to provide liquidity in the housing and loan markets and thereby expand home ownership especially among lower income families. Instead, they turned themselves into casinos, taking advantage of an implied U.S. government guarantee.
The Fannie and Freddie bosses created another guarantee. They hired top appointees from both Republican and Democratic Administrations (such as Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick) and lathered them with tens of millions of dollars in executive compensation. In this way, they kept federal supervision at a minimum and held off efforts in Congress to toughen regulation. These executives are all gone now, enjoying their maharajan riches with impunity while pensions and mutual funds lose and lose and lose with no end in sight, short of a government-taxpayer bailout.
Over a year ago, leading financial analyst Henry Kaufman and very few others warned about “undisciplined” (read unregulated) and “mis-pricing” of lower quality assets. Mr. Kaufman wrote in the Wall Street Journal of August 15, 2007 that “If some institutions are really ‘too big to fail,’ then other means of discipline will have to be found.”
There are ways to prevent such crashes. In the nineteen thirties, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt chose stronger regulation, creating the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and several bank regulatory agencies. He saved the badly listing capitalist ship.
Today, there is no real momentum in a frozen Washington, D.C. to bring regulation up to date. To the contrary, in 1999, Congress led by Senator McCain’s Advisor, former Senator Phil Gramm and the Clinton Administration led by Robert Rubin, Secretary of the Treasury, and soon to join Citibank, de-regulated and ended the wall between investment banks and commercial banking known as the Glass-Steagall Act.
Clinton and Congress opened the floodgates to rampant speculation without even requiring necessary and timely disclosures for the benefit of institutional and individual investors.
Now the entire U.S. economy is at risk. The domino theory is getting less theoretical daily. Without investors obtaining more legal authority as owners over their out of control company officers and Boards of Directors, and without strong regulation, corporate capitalism cannot be saved from its toxic combination of endless greed and maximum power—without responsibility.
Uncle Sam, the deeply deficit ridden bailout man, may have another taxpayers-to-the-rescue operation for Wall Street. But don’t count on stretching the American dollar much more without devastating consequences to and from global financial markets in full panic.
Consider the U.S. dollar like an elastic band. You can keep stretching this rubber band but suddenly it BREAKS. Our country needs action NOW from Washington, D.C.