Sunday, May 31, 2009

Catching up on a few things

First, I hope to have the last entry in my Psychedelic Furs tribute done soon. I'm still piecing together memories and data from the live shows. After that, I'll put together the "ultimate" set list for readers to consider before next Monday.

Here are some links that I have been meaning to post for a few weeks now. Enjoy!

The USA Today had this pretty powerful piece the other day about debt: ["Leap in U.S. debt hits taxpayers with 12% more red ink"]. This is probably the most shocking thing I have seen in a very long time. Not only are we on the hook for the federal government's largess, but look at the personal debt. Wow. Now, granted, a good chunk of that is housing. But the consumer debt is the next time bomb. I really think we, as a nation, have to spend some time thinking about all of this in order to come up with an equitable and fair solution to the problems because it is clear that the Republicans and the Democrats don't have the answers.

Many of us have been complaining about NAFTA [and GATT/WTO] and the effects free trade have had on America. But what about Mexico or even Canada? This story was sent to me by my friend Steve who has been following this stuff as closely as I have: ["Megaprojects and Militarization: A Perfect Storm in Mexico"].
Here is another article he sent a few weeks back: ["Pipeline-Istan: Everything You Need to Know About Oil, Gas, Russia, China, Iran, Afghanistan and Obama"]. Isn't it amazing how this thing just never seems to go away?

This is silly but funny: ["Echo And The Bunnymen to blast 'Ocean Rain' album into space"]. Imagine, "The Killing Moon" is on that record ...

An interesting story here about trends in radio listening: ["42 Million Americans Listen to Radio Weekly on Digital Audio Platforms"].

I forgot to post this around tax time: ["Where Do Your Tax Dollars Go? - Tax Day 2009"]. As a resident of New Hampshire, 29.4 cents of my federal dollar went to military spending with another 7.9 cents on interest on military debt. Another 21.3 cents went to health spending. Another 11.9 cents went to non-military debt. 7.2 cents went to income security and labor. Less than 4 cents went to housing and community, veterans' benefits, and food, each. Only 3 cents went to government employees and education.

And the Republicans are starting to visit Iowa with eyes towards 2012: ["Early Presidential Campaigning In Iowa Begins"].

I'm looking forward to this book: ["The Ground Truth: The Story Behind America's Defense on 9/11"].
And I literally just found out a few minutes ago that Jerry Sorlucco has a new book: ["The Two Martini Diet: How I Lost 100+lbs While Eating Well and Having a Drink"].

Friday, May 29, 2009

Blundering into bankruptcy

Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader

Dear President Obama and GM Chairman Henderson,

The hour is late. You seem bent on an orchestrated bankruptcy for General Motors on June 1, 2009. Before any irreversible moves are made -- the GM/task force reorganization plan should be submitted to Congress for deliberative review and decision. There are several major concerns with a precipitous bankruptcy declaration that have emerged over the last several days.

First, the previously understood rationale for bankruptcy—namely obstinate bondholders--no longer applies. Recent developments indicate that GM and the auto task force have revised the proposed allocation of equity in a restructured GM, and reached agreement with at least the most prominent bondholders. Although a June 1 bond payment is due, it certainly seems that that payment could easily be wrapped into the new bondholder offer, as effectively will be the case if GM enters bankruptcy.

With the bondholder problem moving toward resolution, or at least now clearly resolvable, there is no evident rationale for bankruptcy other than an unstoppable momentum of some hidden agendas. Given the high stakes, including job losses, communities devastated, the effects on consumer confidence in the GM brand and the socio-economic impacts of potentially excessive downsizing, a last chance to avoid the tyranny against the weak that is a Chapter 11 bankruptcy court.

Second, the matter of how GM's holdings in China will be treated in bankruptcy continues to demand attention before any filing. Kevin Wale, President and Managing Director of GM China, told CNN that "Our business is run as separate joint-ventures here in China in partnership with SAIC … so we're profitable, we fund our own investment and we would be largely independent of any action that took place in the US." Yet the GM assets and profits in China must be included in any bankruptcy proceeding, and available to creditors, claimants and litigants who could, conceivably, petition to take the company into Chapter 7 liquidation.

Has GM clearly presented to the government its valuable holdings, large profits and contractual obligations in China as part of its assets in any bankruptcy? The task force has indicated some uncertainty about these questions.

Third, proceedings in the Chrysler bankruptcy have highlighted the manifold injustice being perpetrated on victims of defective Chrysler products -- and likely also to be perpetrated on victims of GM products. In the Chrysler proceeding, top Chrysler officials have acknowledged that they were ready and able to do a deal with Fiat that established successor liability for the emergent Fiat/"good Chrysler" company. In the course of bankruptcy or in preparing for bankruptcy, however, they reversed course, apparently just because they could. Now, hundreds of Chrysler victims are on track to have their claims extinguished, unless the bankruptcy judge or other court overrules this element of the bankruptcy plan.

There are many differences between the bankruptcy of the private company, Chrysler and the pending GM bankruptcy, but the GM restructuring plan is similar to Chrysler in the anticipated creation of a bad/old GM and a new/good GM that emerges without liabilities. Does the government as the major owner of GM plan to follow the Chrysler approach? Has President Obama and his Task Force given consideration to the suffering of real adults and children that will follow from such a move?

Not to mention the political backlash.

One such real person is Amanda Dinnigan, a 10-year-old girl from Long Island, New York. Amanda was injured by an allegedly faulty seatbelt in a GMC Envoy that snapped her neck in a crash. Her father, an ironworker, estimates her healthcare costs at $500,000 a year. Her lost quality of life will obviously be tragic. Will a discretionary decision not to establish successorship liability in a discretionary (voluntary) bankruptcy leave Amanda and her family -- and thousands of others like them with no access to justice?

If the Obama officials intend to proceed with maneuvers effectively to extinguish their claims, they should at least talk to some of them first, and confront the human consequences of such actions.

The GM/task force bankruptcy plans appear geared to saving the General Motors entity -- but at a harsh and often avoidable cost to workers, communities, suppliers, consumers, dealers, and the nation's auto manufacturing capacity which will move faster, post bankruptcy, to China.

At this late stage we again urge President Obama to reconsider the bankruptcy filing plans, and to enable deliberative and meaningful Congressional review -- as many Members of Congress are seeking -- of the restructuring plans before irreversible steps are taken.

After all, Congress is more than a potted plant. The “first branch” legislated, after public hearings, the 1979 Chrysler bailout and the complex Conrail restructuring a few years later.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Corporations are not people

Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader
Over the following two hundred years, these ever larger corporations and their attorneys have been driving relentlessly, dynamically to erect systems of privileges and immunities that give the corporations themselves limited liability.
Their first big move was to take the chartering authority from the state legislature and place it inside an executive agency where chartering became automatic, shorn of the conditions the lawmakers once imposed.
Once chartering became automatic, perpetual and open-ended, corporate lawyers moved to have the courts – not the legislatures – turn corporations into “persons” for purposes of constitutional rights.
Their big breakthrough came with the Santa Clara case in 1886 when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed its summary headnotes to declare that the railroad in the case was a “person” for purposes of the 14th amendment. Through elaborations in later Supreme Court decisions, that meant that companies like Aetna, General Electric, Exxon and Lockheed had most of the same constitutional rights as real people like you.
Soon it was off to the races and the promised land of no-fault corporate behavior. Early in the 20th century, companies erected “no-fault” workers compensation schemes limiting damages for the horrors of worker injuries and workplace diseases in those mines, factories, and foundries.
Then came the steady erosion of shareholder rights and power, notwithstanding the securities acts of 1933 and 1934 which emphasized disclosure and anti-fraud rules. As owners, the shareholders have had little control over the corporations they “own”. The split between ownership by the stockholders and control by the corporate bosses, and their rubber stamp boards of directors, is now wider than the Grand Canyon.
With the limitless “business judgment rule” and the permissive corporate chartering goliath ensconced in the state of Delaware, shareholders don’t even have a vote as to whether their hired bosses should dissolve their company into bankruptcy.
These investors cannot even determine the limits on the runaway pay packages by and for their supreme executives. Investors cannot even propose their names for election to the boards of directors in these Kremlin-style corporate board elections. Investors are told—if you don’t like what we your bosses are doing, you’re free to sell your shares. And, of course, that exit leaves the rascals more in charge.
Anytime the law is activated on behalf of the “little people”, corporate lobbyists move in to weaken or delete these instruments of accountability. For example, tort law giving wrongfully injured Americans their day in court against manufacturers of defective cars, hazardous chemicals or drugs and other products has been weakened by business-backed state and federal laws. More immunity for corporate wrongdoing.
When the early atomic power industry got underway in the nineteen fifties, insurance companies would not insure the potentially massive damages a breach of containment disaster might produce. No problem. The industry pushed Congress to pass the Price-Anderson Act in 1957, which greatly limited the utilities’ and manufacturers’ liability for the human devastation arising from a class nine meltdown.
How about the contracts you sign with credit card, auto dealer, insurance company, bank and other vendors? Over the years by using fine print contracts to avoid many obligations, sellers have disadvantaged consumers who have to sign on the dotted line. Corporate lawyers have turned contract law upside down. And if you don’t want to sign, you can’t go to a competitor company because the contracts are just as one-sided, taking away your rights page after page, including your right to go to court.
Well, suppose a corporation, like General Motors, is so mismanaged that it is losing sales, profits, creditworthiness and heading toward abject failure. No problem. There is always chapter 11 voluntary bankruptcy to terminate obligations to creditors, dealers, litigants, and other claimants with pennies on the dollar.
Here is how bankruptcy attorney Laurence H. Kallen described the process in his book, Corporate Welfare: “…in chapter 11 the megacorporations almost all succeed famously. They dominate the committees and bully the judges. They stay ten steps ahead of any feeble attempts at supervision. They use the bankruptcy laws to force plans of reorganization down creditors’ throats. And then the executives of those corporations laugh all the way to the bank.”
Speaking of banks, wouldn’t you like to have the power to mutate yourself like six large insurance companies did last November to get billions of your tax dollars under the TARP rescue program?
Mired in their risky, reckless investments, including derivatives, these insurance companies qualified for the money simply by a paper restructuring of themselves as bank holding companies. Voil√°! The U.S. Treasury declared they qualify as financial firms and will soon be receiving your money. The New York Times reports that “hundreds” of other such companies “are still in the pipeline for review.”
Whether it is equal justice under the law, equal protection under the law, or equal access to the law, there is no contest between the corporate entity and the real human being.
What Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis feared in an opinion he wrote during the nineteen thirties is happening. These megacorporations have become Frankensteins—moving to own our genes, the plant seeds of life and taking control of computerized artificial intelligence. Their final conquest is far along—the control of government which is then turned against its own people.
As Paul Harvey used to say: “Good day.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The grocery bill ...

Sure, we all have them and some are quite high. I'm surprised that the Labor Dept. reports that the average family of four spends nearly $9k a year on groceries! My bill is more than half that.
However, WMUR-TV offers some tips on keeping the food bill down: ["Save $1,000 On Groceries This Year"].

Monday, May 25, 2009

Powerball odds get, well, crazy ...

Not unlike a lot of folks, I don't play the lottery very much. Yeah, I know, the money goes to education. But, like a lot of people have said, it's a sucker's game. The odds are just impossible. And what's the point of buying the scratch tickets? I mean, $10 to win $5? That doesn't make a lot of sense unless you play all the time ... and that can be a lot of money.
I do, however, play Powerball whenever it gets up over $100 million or so. Again, I figure, it goes towards education. What's $5 or $10 here or there?
In addition, when the Powerball gets to be more than $100 million, there is a bit of freedom if you somehow manage to win. Think of it this way: If you take the lump sum option, you'll get a little more than half or so. The government will take 40 percent, leaving you a big chuck of change instantly in your pocket. Take the current Powerball figure of $222 million. The cash option is $113 million. The government will take its piece leaving you with about $68 million. That's a chunk of change that will change your life assuming you don't do something stupid like blow it all in Vegas or "invest" in your friend's business schemes.
So, what the hey.
The other week, the Powerball jumped up to more than $100 million. I took some of my cards into the local Irving to play $10 worth. The 10 numbers I have come from fortunes from cookies at the Chinese buffet place near my office. The clerk tried to scan the cards but the machine kicked the tickets out. Oh, the clerk said, these are old tickets. You need new ones.
Now, I rarely play, so I asked what she was talking about. Apparently, the lottery changed the numbers. OK, I thought, I'll just put the fortune cookie numbers on some new tickets.
I grabbed the new tickets and started filling them out. Oh, I looked, this has changed. Instead of picking 1 to 55, you now have to pick 1 to 59. In the Powerball pick, it's now 1 to 39 instead of 1 to 42. I filled out the numbers, played the tickets, and left.
As I was driving home I thought, Hmm, I wonder if the odds have changed that much. When I got home I compared the new and old tickets. Well, the odds had changed ... Instead of 1 in 146 million, it's now 1 in 195 million! Like 1 in 146 million wasn't bad enough. Overall, the odds of winning something have increased, from 1:37 to 1:35. But wow, those odds are now crazy. The $200,000 prize went from 1 in 3.5 million to 1 in 5.1 million. The $10,000 prize went from 1 in 584,432 to 1 in 723,145. The chances for the $3 and $4 wins increased slightly. Everything else is harder to win.
I went over to the lottery Web site and it seems the change happened in January of this year. Here is what the Web site posted:
NH Powerball® -- Now, more Powerful than ever!

We’ve packed New Hampshire’s favorite game with more fun, more excitement and a whole lot more money! We’ve raised Powerball’s® starting jackpot from $15 million to $20 million. Next, we raised the $200,000 prize to $1 million for players who Match 5 and have Power Played their winning ticket. We also lowered the overall odds of winning -- that means bigger jackpots, more often and more prizes won than ever before!

Players choose 5 numbers from a field of 1 through 59 and one Powerball® Number from a field of 1 through 39. With the change of the numbers to choose from, the overall odds of winning the jackpot prize will lengthen but the overall odds of winning will drop to 1 in 35!

Play the all new Powerball® today!

In very rare instances, the lottery may not be able to pay the stated set prize levels. In that case, the prize pools will go pari-mutuel (like the jackpot) and we will divide the prize pool among all of the winners.
Well, OK, there is some nice spin here. While the overall odds have improved, every prize that is more than $7 has gotten worse. But one has to ask the question: Why? They don't seem to tell you that at all.
The lottery remains a game for people who aren't good at math. But one has to wonder why the odds were increased so much. It wasn't like there were a lot of people winning a ton of money, right?

My cousin jammin' out

Here is my cousin Zander playing one of my favorite songs:

This might be the wave of the future

R.I.P. Jay Bennett

This is pretty sad news: ["Former Wilco member Jay Bennett dies"]. At only 45, wow. I really like Wilco a lot but I don't think the band is as creative since the Bennett was kicked out of the band.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

June 2009 Top 30 Noise Chart

Reporting stations: WAAF, WBCN, WBRS, WFNX, WMBR, WMFO, WTCC, WUML, WZBC

1. The Everyday Visuals – The Everyday Visuals
2. New Collisions – New Collisions
3. Boy in Static – Candy Cigarette
4. Hands and Knees – Et tu, Fluffy?
5. Taxpayer – Don’t Steal My Night Vision
6. Passion Pit – Manners
7. Bang Camaro – Bang Camaro II
8. Muck & the Mires – Hypnotic
9. Apple Betty – Streakin’ ‘Cross the Sky
10. Chriss Sutherland – Worried Love
11. Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles – The Stars Are Out
12. The Steamy Bohemians – Technicolor Radio
13. Audrey Ryan – I Know, I Know EP
14. Growlers – What Heights?
15. Magic Magic – Magic Magic
16. The Bynars – Back From Outer Space
17. Me and Joan Collins – love trust faith lust
18. Mike Gent – Mike Gent
19. tUnE-YaRdS - BiRd-BrAiNs
20. Animal Hospital – Memory
21. Doomstar! – colors
22. Thick Shakes “Nobody’s Girl”
23. Whitetail – Whitetail EP
24. MV & EE – Drone Trailer
25. Sarah Rabdau & Self Employed Assassins – Sarah Rabdau & Self Employed Assassins
26. Many Mansions – Holy Mountain Life Adventure
27. Truman Peyote – Tour EP
28. Manners – “Fire”
29. Indian Style – “Dark In My Heart”
30. Muy Cansado – Stars and Garters

It's a nice sign when ...

The email is quiet, the Facebook is quiet, the Twitter is quiet ... it means most folks have shut off the machines and are doing something else ...

Friday, May 22, 2009

NEPA/NENA to merge in July

The New England Press Association and New England Newspaper Association will merge in July. The new organization will be called the New England Newspaper and Press Association. The organizations will be based out of the NEPA office in Dedham.

Morley L. Piper, the executive director of NENA, stated today in an email:
"I know you will look forward to working with the new organization. We all expect it will do well and be a critical help to the regional newspaper business. We at NENA appreciate all the support, confidence, assistance and most of all the friendships we have made over the years which will endure. We have come to the end of an era but it is the beginning of a new one. We hope very much our beleagured but beloved newspaper business will fare well as the economy improves."
In many ways, this is both good and bad news. It's good news because the two organizations will be stronger working together. It's not so good because there will probably be fewer awards and more competition for those fewer awards.
Here's hoping the new organization will continue to thrive in the future.

Green Day drop F-bomb on GMA!

OMW! Mancow waterboarded!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

An interesting thought ...

The government has reportedly committed $12.8 trillion to fixing the economy. If you figure there are 300 million Americans, that's about $4,266 a piece. That's a TON of money if you think about it.
If each person were given $4,000, instead of giving it to the banks, stimulus, etc., the money would probably be better utilized. Let's pretend for a moment that each person was given $4,000 directly. Well, that money could be sent to pay for a credit card debt, which would help out the banks and the card holder. It could be put down on a mortgage, which would help the housing industry, the banks, and the homeowner. It could be used to pay more down on a mortgage, alleviating foreclosures, helping out all involved. You can pay for about a third of a decent car with $4k, which would help the auto industry and the car buyer. It could help the used car buyer since there would be more used cars available for people who couldn't afford a new one. You could put it all in a CD, which would help the banks lend out more money for small businesses and homeowners. Because of the way the local economy works, getting $4k in the mail would surely circulate a lot better than giving $12.8 trillion than to give it to the banks and stimulus.
Let's take this a step further: There are about 117 million households in America. If you parsed this out to households, it would be more than $10,900 per household. Imagine what nearly $11,000 could have done in the last year instead of blowing all those trillions on things that will show no real affect on the economy.
Last year, we had another child and used our stimulus check that we received to pay for the birth of our son. We received the check, it went into the bank, we had our baby and paid the hospital bill with the stimulus. The nurses and doctors who brought our child into the world were paid. So were the vendors the hospital uses. In other words, our stimulus money circulated within the local economy.
At the time that these checks were going out, I openly said it was a bad idea. Sure, give me some of my money back. But, I didn't think it was the best thing to "revive" the economy. I suggested during some discussions on the air and online that if the federal government wanted to truly stimulate the economy, it should give everyone $10,000, not $1,200. What's $1,200 going to do? Nothing really, as we've seen. But, give folks $10,000, and they could really do something with that money - buy a home, a car, save for college or retirement, which all gets circulated by the banks. Of course, this idea was a tad unrealistic at the time. Nobody was going to go into trillions of dollars worth of debt just so Janie and Jimmy can get a new Toyota ... However, as it turns out, the government DID go trillions into debt. But, instead of Jimmy and Janie getting a new car, bankers on Wall Street got $78,000 bathrooms and million dollar bonuses while driving their businesses into the ground. And now, they are talking about TARP money for the insurers and billions more for the endless wars. There really is something wrong with all of this.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Interesting press releases ...

At work, I get some interesting press releases. I can't use many of them because the newspaper I edit concentrates on local issues. However, sometimes, I blog about the things I get.
Here's an interesting one from NFI Research here in New Hampshire, about the use of social networking in the professional world:
When it comes to social networking for business purposes, Twitter has entered the office.

It also turns out that Twitter is being used by those with higher titles, based on a new worldwide survey.

Almost a third of senior executives admit they use Twitter for business purposes compared to nine percent of managers.

Overall, 18 percent of senior executives and managers use Twitter, according to the survey by NFI Research.

When it comes to personal “twittering,” a fourth of senior executives tweet compared to 15 percent of managers.

In addition to Twitter, two-thirds of senior executives and managers use LinkedIn for business while 26 percent use blogs and 22 percent use Facebook.

“It’s clear that many in business take social networking seriously and are engaging to figure out ways to make it work for them,” said Chuck Martin, bestselling author and CEO of NFI Research.

The survey also showed that more small companies than large use social networking services for business reasons.

Five times more small companies than large use Facebook for business purposes.

“We know that we need to develop more connections to our business through these web-medias, but we feel a little safe behind the leading edge on this one,” says one respondent. “I am concerned that too much investment too early in the manpower needed to monitor them all may cause the leading to become bleeding edge.”

The majority (58%) of business leaders also use Facebook for personal uses, based on the survey of 178 executives and managers. LinkedIn and blogs were the next most popular social networking services for personal purposes with 50 percent using LinkedIn and 22 percent using blogs.

No significant differences exist between company size and social networking services used for personal purposes.

NFI Research surveys 2,000 senior executives and managers globally every two weeks. It has chronicled the transformation of business and countless workplace issues for more than nine years. NFI's Chairman and CEO Chuck Martin is a best-selling author of seven business books and frequently presents NFI's findings to businesses. Martin also teaches at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire, where he teaches Consumer Buying Behavior and Marketing Research.

Chuck Martin is the author of the best-selling book SMARTS (Are We Hardwired for Success?) (AMACOM/American Management Association).

Chuck Martin is working on a new book dealing with high performing individuals. It is slated to be published by AMACOM/American Management Association.
To provide some equal balance, if you will, here's a article which reflects a bit of worry about journalists involved in social networking: ["Newspapers Tweeting Like Crazy -- But What Are the Rules?"].

Time for renewable energy

Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader
After years of opposing or ridiculing renewable energy, the giant oil companies are using a new approach. A recent ExxonMobil advertising campaign puts it this way:

“Oil, gas, coal, biofuels, nuclear, wind, solar….to fuel the future we need them all.”

Not an unexpected maneuver from a fossil fuel company that has owned Washington and received subsidies and tax breaks for decades. What is unfortunate is that this is the exact kind of energy pitch coming out of the Obama Administration and most Congressional Democrats. Indeed it is right out of candidate Obama’s 2008 campaign rhetoric last year.

Then Senator Obama gave every energy source its due although he spent an inordinate amount of time pushing the mirage of “clean coal” and keeping nuclear energy on the table.

The problem is that all energy sources are not created equal for purposes of efficiency, and the well being of consumers, workers, the environment and posterity. Regardless of their BTU production, different kinds of energy produce different levels of harms and benefits, short and long term.

Take atomic power. Wall Street financiers have been adamant for years that lending billions of dollars to utilities to construct a single nuclear plant requires a 100% U.S. government loan guarantee. A 90% loan guarantee by the taxpayers is rejected by the Wall Streeters. They want a 100% guarantee on the barrelhead.

The well-known physicist, environmentalist Amory Lovins argues against nuclear energy just on economic grounds. He says he doesn’t even have to get to the safety issues to recommend rejection. I know no one of prominence of on the other side willing to debate him. If you do, let me know.

But the safety issues surrounding the nuclear option will not go away. Neither the unresolved permanent storage of deadly radioactive waste, nor the national security problems, nor the risk of a class nine meltdown that could contaminate, in the words of the old Atomic Energy Agency (of the U.S. government), an area the size of Pennsylvania, are going away.

Then, of course, there is the missing “source” of energy from the Exxon ad. This is energy efficiency. Reducing waste. A thousand megawatts you don’t waste is a thousand megawatts you don’t have to produce. The same goes for not having to waste a gallon of gasoline in gas guzzling motor vehicles. Nothing can compete with the payback ratios of energy conservation which includes building and engine construction and use. Yet again and again it is not at the top of the list or on many lists at all.

Then there are the renewables—wind, geothermal, water and all the wonderous varieties of solar. A few days ago, the Sustainable Energy Coalition had its 12th annual Congressional renewable energy and energy efficiency EXPO + Forum at the Cannon House Office Building in the U.S. House of Representatives.

This year’s EXPO featured over fifty businesses, trade associations, government agencies and non-profit policy organizations to hear some members of Congress regale them and converse with visitors.

I found the exhibits and their personable exhibitors to be specific, comprehensive and seemingly convinced that renewables are finally, after some failed starts, on an irreversible road to greater market share.

It was not only the advanced hardware and the use of tax credits that fed their optimism. Renewables are branching out in ways that are bringing them nearer to a level playing field with their heavily subsidized and coddled fossil fuel and nuclear “competitors.” More venture capital, better tax credits, rebates and various state and local proposals exist to facilitate financing for users.

One spreading incentive comes from my home state of Connecticut which offers a special solar energy leasing plan for homeowners. The Nutmeg State claims it is leading “the way with the nation’s first rate payer supporter residential leasing program for solar energy.” Catch the details by visiting ctsolarlease.com or phone 888-232-3477.

The point of this column is to demand thoughtful discrimination by our policy makers between different kinds of energy. Some are clearly better than others. From the federal government on down to the state and local level, a discriminatory approach is a must if the conversion to renewables and energy conservation from fossils and nuclear is to accelerate.

The old energy lobbies are very stubborn and have their hooks into too many politicians who mouth the ExxonMobil party line.

There are far more jobs in the new energy economy with far more health, efficiency, and security benefits than there are in staying with hydrocarbons and radioactive atoms.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Yikes! 'Real federal debt' passes $200K per capita

From the inbox, pretty shocking stuff:

Real Federal Debt Passes $200,000 Per Capita For The First Time

For the first time in a generation, Americans have looked at their personal balance sheets and what they see has convinced them to start saving again. They are putting off purchases, paying down their credit cards and even putting money in the bank. At the same time however, the Federal Government has vastly increased its spending and consumption, quickly running up the debt every American will have to confront.

Federal debt has been growing much faster than the economy according to Sheila Weinberg, Founder and CEO of The Institute for Truth in Accounting. The organization sponsors the www.truthinaccounting.org web site which estimates the nation's total obligations. "The nation's "official debt" is more than $11 trillion but the "real" national debt -- which includes promises of Social Security, Medicare and other social insurance promises -- has just crossed $61 trillion. That works out to a staggering $200,000 for every one of America's 305 million residents."

"Even the official debt seems to be growing faster than we can count it," Weinberg said. Since the day George Bush was inaugurated in January 2001 until the end of his second term, the official national debt grew to $10.6 trillion from $5.7 trillion, a compound annual growth rate of more than 8%. The Treasury's official accounting also reveals that another $612 billion in federal debt has accumulated in the 100 days since President Obama's inauguration.That represents new debt of more than $6,000 for every household in America.

The Institute's chairman, Roger Nelson, expressed his concerns. "This extraordinarily rising debt cannot continue. Rising rates on treasury securities show our biggest international creditors are beginning to have concerns about our ability to repay these debts and make good on the promises of benefits we've made to ourselves. They understand that our debt is not what Washington says officially rather, it's what benefits Americans expect of their government. Part of the Institute's mission is to make sure the average American understands the existence and implications of owing $61 trillion."

Estimates for federal spending from the administration and from the Congressional Budget Office principally agree that deficit will continue for many years to come. "The official debt will nearly double in the next eight years and no one has yet predicted the effect of enacting programs like nationalized health care or the bail-out of politically-connected industries," Nelson added. "We call on the Congress to make sure they have accurately calculated the real costs of any of these initiatives before approving them."

Please visit www.truthin2008.org to see the nation's total debt being counted. We invite you to install our spinning debt counter on your site with our compliments!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The night I met Richard Butler

By chance, I would meet Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs at Irving Plaza at the Waterboys show in 1985. The band had opened for U2 the night before and was touring to promote "This is the Sea," the band's second full-length album [Plan 9, this cool local band opened the night].
At the time, I was hanging out with these three young women from Long Island who I kept running into at shows. It seemed like every time I turned around, there they were. So we exchanged numbers and all started hanging out together.
I was at the bar ordering a drink when Butler came up and sat right down next to me. I did a double take. It's Richard Butler [!!]. I can't believe it! I introduced myself and told him I loved his music. He thanked me. I asked him how the new album was coming along and told him that many of us were anxiously waiting for it [There were a lot of rumors that the band was working on a groundbreaking album. “Midnight to Midnight” would be released about a year and change after this meeting]. Butler said the recording was going well and that the album would be edgy and raw [it actually turned out to be very slick and poppy]. Not wanting to be a nag, I told him I was looking forward to it and scurried away to be with my friends.
When I got to the table, I started bragging that I just met Butler at the bar and they didn’t believe me. I told them, "Go see for yourself ... he’s right over there!" They didn't believe but didn't budge from the table.
About 15 minutes later, Butler would shimmy right by our table and quickly out of the club, moving as swiftly as if he had run into a bad one night stand or something. In other words, he couldn't wait to get the hell out of that place. The Long Island girls looked on in awe as Butler passed by.
"Good night," he said to me in that distinct voice, waving.
The girls all looked like they had seen a car crash.
"I told you he was here!" I said, giddily.

A few months later, I would be back in New Hampshire, mentally bruised and beaten, deeply depressed, and disappointed that I couldn’t make it more than two years in the world’s biggest city. Looking back now and going over some notes from the past, it wasn't as bad as it seemed at the time.
Trying to get anywhere in the music industry was a disaster although I had some OK demos to work from. No matter what I tried - forming my own band, joining others - it just wasn't going to happen. Of course, it is a disaster for everyone but the lucky few. But, I can't imagine what it would be like now, with all the technology, to be starting out again. I did become a better guitarist and wrote reams of poetry and lyrics. I would write many more songs and form other bands. But something was always missing.
I made great friends and greater enemies. I experienced true sorrow and joy, probably for the first time. You learn a lot from seeing deep despair, gratuitous greed, vicious crime, unlimited energy, victories, and collapses, all the while flirting with homelessness but cherishing every single moment. It seemed like I had been to hell and back.
Frustrated with being a “failure,” I would start a music magazine upon returning home which delved into serious public policy, random ramblings, and music commentary, in many ways, a precursor to Politizine, on primitive Xerox [later, professionally printed]. It felt good to poke things in the eye, to stay creative, to learn.
The glory years of the lost summers would never be experienced again though. Sex, partying, and everything else had become complicated. People were getting pregnant and starting families. AIDS was starting to spread and people in the cities at least were starting to get a little scared. The Furs would still play in the background but the revelry and vicious bite would not be as amusing. It would become all too real.

Tomorrow: The Psychedelic Furs, live ...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The battle for single-payer continues ...

I received this email alert earlier this afternoon:
Baucus Arrests Five More Doctors, Nurses, Activists
By David Swanson

Dr. Margaret Flowers, who was arrested along with seven others at the first Senate Finance Committee hearing on healthcare, just phoned me from the second one. As Chairman Max Baucus called the hearing to order, about 20 members of the California Nurses Association (CNA) stood and turned their backs on the committee. Pasted on their backs were signs reading: "Nurses Say: Patients First," "Stop AHIP," (referring to health insurance lobbyists), "Pass Single Payer."

This was the second hearing at which, despite majority support for single-payer in polls, not a single advocate for single-payer was permitted to participate. The nurses were asked to leave and did so. But five people spoke up for single-payer and were arrested: Dr. Judy Desovich; DeAnn McEwen, a nurse from Longbeach Memorial Medical Center ICU; Sue Cannon, a nurse from UC-Irvine; Dr. Steven Fenichel from New York; and Jerry Call from Maine.

Flowers phoned me from the sidewalk at Constitution Avenue and First Street at 10:30 a.m. as the arrestees were being brought outside one by one and a crowd was cheering and chanting. About 10 nurses staged a brief sit-in on the sidewalk while we were on the phone. Numerous TV cameras and boom mics were present from Bill Moyer's Journal, CBS, and other networks.

Groups involved included CNA, Physicians for a National Health Program, Progressive Democrats of America, Gray Panthers, Public Citizen, and Code Pink. Seven of the "Baucus Eight" arrestees from the last hearing were present for this one.

I heard chants of "Lock Up Baucus!" and "Baucus Baucus You Can't Hide - We Can See Your Greedy Side!"

People were holding up posters and banners including a large one showing a healthcare provider with tape over their mouth and the words "Most Physicians Want a Single Payer National Health System."

Video and photos will be posted soon at http://afterdowningstreet.org/baucus

Dare we hope for media reports as good as was Ed Schultz's last time?

On Wednesday, May 13, Flowers and other leaders of the campaign for single-payer will be speaking at a rally at Upper Senate Park from noon to 2 p.m. (You can also catch a hearing on torture at 10 a.m. in Dirksen 226.) Then at 3 p.m. actor Mike Farrell will join Congressman Dennis Kucinich for a press conference on single-payer at 3 p.m. in Rayburn 2203. Find more about the week's events at http://pdamerica.org

I'll be there. Will you?
It's interesting that there seems to be a total media blackout about this, probably one of the most important national issues in our lifetime.

The Psychedelic Furs in my life

Like most folks, I was introduced to the Psychedelic Furs after hearing "Love My Way," an almost Top 40 single from 1982's "Forever Now" record [it peaked at 44 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, back when the Top 40 was "rigged" and not completely based on sales]. I remember to this day the first time I heard the song on a Boston radio station that doesn't exist anymore and thought it was one of the most amazing thing I had ever heard. I remember what struck me ... xylophone in a rock song? And those eerie synthesizer parts that come into in the middle of the verses ... wah, wonhn ... what the hell is this?
At the time, my taste in music was varied. It was mostly geared towards whatever was on FM radio at the time, whatever my parents had on cassette, the 45s I would buy, and things my friends would listen to.
I only had a couple of serious friends at the time. Leo was one of them. We would listen to all kinds of things in our early teen years although Kiss, David Bowie, Hall & Oates, the Go-Go’s, the B-52's, Gary Numan, and whatever was on the radio at the time come to mind. Sometimes, his dad’s Freddy Fender records would creep in there too. Our friendship was a steady diet of Fangoria Magazine, Micronauts, “General Hospital,” Flaky Puffs, delivering the Concord Monitor, our silly dream of becoming indie film directors before anyone knew what indie films were [our homemade Super 8 movies prove this].
My favorite bands were often blues-based artists like the Doors, Led Zeppelin, the Moody Blues, and the Rolling Stones, and more mainstream "cutting edge" artists, like Blondie, Flock of Seagulls, INXS, and The Knack [I have no problem admitting these things publicly]. I would later get into more spirited music like Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, Fear, Gun Club, and other stuff, while still listening to Donna Summer disco and black artists like Isaac Hayes that most folks in New Hampshire despised [Almost daily I get a dose of Hayes' heavier stuff. I can't get through the day without it ...]. I still listen to the music I enjoyed way back when and I'm surprised at how much stands the test of time.
After hearing "Love My Way," I drifted on to other things. But later, I bought "Forever Now,” the debut, and "Talk Talk Talk," which instantly struck me as the best of the three.
The debut is a good collection but it is hampered by its primitive lyrics, sparse instrumentation and spotty production [interestingly, two modern day production gods, Martin Hannett and Steve Lillywhite, both worked on the record]. Still, it has standout tracks like "We Love You," "Sister Europe," and the magnificent "India" [I would later cover the song "Pulse" for a compilation CD, backed by Eric Moffett's band Euthanasia, from Providence. It would also be released on a limited run solo CD I put out in 2001 called "Symphony & the Destroy All Covers EP"].
The band’s third album, "Forever Now," is actually still one of my favorite records. It's simply beautiful. But it also sounds dated now - with the primitive MXR guitar flange flourishes, sparsely mixed sax, plunky circus keyboards, and Todd Rundgren’s super mix ... dry at times, wet elsewhere ... it just wreaks 1982. The songs and many of the lyrics are still strong. I probably heard "President Gas" every other day on the mp3 rotation during last summer's commodities shock that sent gas prices up to $4 a gallon, shaking my fist in anger at the fact that our country still didn't have a sane energy policy after more than 25 years [and, frankly, we still don't have one even though the presidency and Congress are controlled by Democrats]! "President gas on everything but roller skates ..." was so realistic when thinking about the almost cultish following of then-Democratic nominee Barack Obama and the sugar high over GOP MILF Sarah Palin [and I use MILF here as a term of endearment]. The darker side of the album - "Only You and I" and "Sleep Comes Down," with its creepy cello swaths - are some of the highlights that bring you down so low.
However, when listening to the second album, "Talk Talk Talk," I started to understand the raw sexuality and power of the band, the joke that is life, and even the horrible way people treat each other ["The one who insists he was first in the line is the last to remember her name ..."]. The blasting chainsaw guitars screaming and screeching … this was true rock and roll. Of course, I was in the middle of my rabid and wayward teenage years so "I Just Want to Sleep With You" and "Into You Like a Train" quickly became theme songs for the troupe of kids who were partying away the summer of 1983 [and later, 1984] with absolutely reckless abandon, before any of us knew we could die from "a big disease with a little name," as Prince would later pontificate. "Pretty in Pink" would become a movie a few years later but before that, it was an anthem of sorts ... a sarcastic joke on the used, the sluts, and the throwaways that we all were - or felt we all were - even if we weren't. We were actually loved or being loved, if only for a few fleeting hours in some strange parent's otherwise unoccupied bed or the backseats of our cars ["I'm in the middle of someone now ... can you come back later?"].
The Furs would later mature but many of us didn’t mind … we were growing up too.
“Mirror Moves” gave us the Furs stripped down to a trio with trigger drums and machines. In some ways, the collection has the best writing the band had done to that point, as far as lyrics and song structure. “The Ghost In You,” “Heaven,” and “Heartbeat” became staples on alternative radio while many of us analyzed some of the more compelling album tracks like “My Time” and “Only a Game.” Even though we were all growing up, there was still the occasional chance for Furs-inspired mischief. One girlfriend at the time took “Alice’s House” and renamed it “Anthony’s House,” in honor of my crazed parties in the summer of 1984, knowing that the minute I heard her version whispered in my ear, there would be a romp in the hay soon. The video era, now in full swing, would bring more fans to the music. Especially with “Heaven,” a video that received decent rotation on MTV that featured the band spinning in circles being doused with water to simulate a rainstorm. Sure, the band was polished up, but that happens when you work with Keith Forsey, the guy who wrote “(Don’t You) Forget About Me,” from the hit movie “The Breakfast Club,” the song that made Simple Minds stars. Even though the band seemed to lose their edge, it wasn’t a big deal because the music was still better than most anything else on the radio. The change in style and seriousness may have also been perpetuated by Butler’s move from England to New York City, as he reportedly became a regular in the dancehall and art scene.
After all of this, did it surprise anyone that the Psychedelic Furs wouldn’t be featured in a John Hughes’ movie? To some of us, no. So what if they “cashed in” a bit and re-recorded a slick version of “Pretty in Pink” for the film? They were our band and always would be. In fact, unlike some music snobs, I was excited for them. Wow, they’re finally on MTV even though MTV sucks. Wow, they’ll actually make some money for a change. Wow, look at all the teenage girls who like them now … they're young, cute, they don't look like Madonna anymore ... Who could blame the band for making a living? Don’t we all want to make a living? I think the purists were upset at the rerecording more than the Hughes film itself. Why not use the original version? [The original version would be used as the backdrop for a commercial advertising pink flip cellphones in 2007].
And then came “Midnight to Midnight,” seemingly so phony, so saccharin, so New York, especially to a jaded former resident. But in hindsight, it was not that bad. “Heartbreak Beat” is a brilliant pop song and the band’s only Top 40 single. And the extended version, which clocks in at more than eight minutes, epitomizes the dance hall grooves of the city at the time. The rest of the album is poppy and simple but the riffing remains. The gear and the clothes are just better.
At the time I wrote:
I don’t know how to approach this one so I’ll just make some statements. It’s very rockish. John Ashton has become very impressive at his playing, most noticeably on “All of the Law,” “One More Word,” and “Heartbreak Beat” [the single version not the 12-inch version]. The 12-inch version is watered down and even for the extra song not on the LP [“New Dream”] not worth the purchase. Richard Butler continues his romantic city life dreams and wonderment, he still is a walking orgasm! No doubt about it, they want to be rock stars but then again, who really doesn’t? And big deal … they deserve it! Furs fans will have to form their own opinions about “Midnight to Midnight” and decide if they are going to support the band they have long cherished. I like it, it’s a good record.
Hindsight being what it is, I don’t agree with my comments about the 12-inch. Sure, it wasn’t worth $4 especially when albums were $7 or $8. But I never listen to the single version now, only the extended version. It's perfect road music for my very long commute.
The band toured and toured and then, took a break, and shockingly, realized they didn’t like who they had become. True fans didn’t mind – this happens. But the purists were already lost.
The band released a "Best of" compilation, a sacrilege at the time, and tacked on “All That Money Wants,” an acoustic driven ditty that seemed almost like a beg for forgiveness.
In 1989, the band surprised all with the bombastic brilliance of “Book of Days.” A complete surprise to most who assumed this band would ride off into the sunset. Well, you thought wrong:
Wow, wow, wow! Good morning, here it is. I’ve been waiting so long for this album. Too long. It’s amazing. I knew they had it in them. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed “Midnight to Midnight,” I think I was probably the only one who did. It was a departure, a breakthrough in pop sensible, trying something new. But “Book of Days” is a leap backwards, yet forwards, into darkness. Where Richard Butler was tantalized by the glamour and glitz of New York on “Midnight …” he is tortured and fascinated by it on “Book of Days.” The sounds are big and loud, screeching guitars, throbbing bass and the ever popular return of Vince Ely on drums. “Entertain Me” is somewhere between Joy Division romp and The Cure’s drear with fuzzed out guitar blasts … remember “I Just Want to Sleep With You?” Have they been hanging out in Alphabet City on LSD? How a band could become so mellow and frightening is beyond me. “Book of Days,” the song, starts off with a bright 12-string acoustic and then lashes into a dark, dreary mess, this is going to turn some heads … “the air here tastes like poison, the traffic moves on broken roads, the river runs like sewer, my own feelings let me down …” Look out Molly Ringwald clones, our band is back, stripped down with white sharp teeth dear … watch its bite, its quite an enormous chunk. “Should God Forget" asks the question hauntingly and with no definitive answers. Just the brash scars of “Dumb Waiters” and “All That Money Wants.” I’m missing Mars Williams’ sax blasts and hope he’s on the tour [he wasn’t]. He’s just too good to give up on. Yeah, it’s here and it’s mine, all mine. Would you like to wallow in it with me? “Torch” is an acoustic break at the end of side one, complete with cello and mandolin (Anthony Thistlewaite of the Waterboys). Then, side two starts … more darkness, more great songs. The best of the lot, “House,” is a great song, kinda like “Shadow In My Heart.” The album finishes with “I Don’t Mine” and I don’t. This record is brilliant. It really is.
Many probably won't agree with this but I think "Book of Days" is easily the second best overall Furs album, second only to "Talk Talk Talk." You can't find it anywhere. It might be downloadable somewhere online, I don't know. But it really is that good.
A couple of years later, the luster would dull slightly. “World Outside” was still the Psychedelic Furs but it didn’t compare to “Book of Days” earth shattering intensity:
… there is a lot going on here that is good. The opening cut, “Valentine,” is pretty psych, guitars spinning over triggered drums. “In My Head” is the perfect second single with its “Heaven” riff and synth waves. Stephen Street’s production gives value to a lot of the weaker material such as the single “Until She Comes,” a weak, strummy copy of “All That Money Wants” and “Torch” combined into prepackaged gloss. “Sometimes” has opening bars right out of a Lulu song, you’ll know it when you hear it but it sits there like a dud. “Get a Room” is a pretty acoustic ballad but a lot of “World Outside” is swamped in technology which seems to try and save itself from the weak songwriting. This band is getting to sound a little tired. Too bad.
Ouch. It seems a little harsh now especially since "Don't Be a Girl" still sounds good after all these years. But maybe not. The band had clearly reached the end. Richard Butler would form Love Spit Love with his brother Tim but this outfit would never achieve the level that the Furs did [although the cover of “How Soon Is Now” wasn’t bad]. It was worth a try though, right?
But after about a decade, the band would reform for some reunion tours both as co-headliners and opening gigs for bigger bands. A couple of new songs were put together here and there. But the main point was to give the fans what they wanted – an opportunity to experience the band live. And now, after reaching three decades of playing music, that is what the Psychedelic Furs are going to give their fans.

Tomorrow: The night I met Richard Butler ...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Gas prices creeping up again ...

Up 9 cents in four days ... oh boy ...

Dick Cheney, please go away already!

Memo to Dick Cheney: Please GO AWAY! I don't like President Obama either but please, shut the effe up already: ["Cheney: Obama endangers the nation"].
Nothing Obama is doing is anything more dangerous or safe than you and President Bush did. So stop lying. Shut up. Retire already. Please, for the benefit of the nation. Let us all move on ...
Or, you know, don't shut up. Give the Dems a reason to get some stones and investigate your ass for war crimes and shenanigans, which you will found guilty of, and then, we can all cheer when they throw you in friggin' jail where you belong! Go ahead, I dare you. Keep chattering away you friggin' disgrace for a public servant.

He who hesitates ... is in the friggin' 10th row ...

I bought my Psychedelic Furs at the Tupelo in June ticket yesterday and was shocked to see that it was almost sold out [There were less than 30 tickets left at 4 p.m. yesterday afternoon]. When I first posted the fact that they were playing in Londonderry - finally, a New Hampshire show, after playing in Vermont a few years back, and Maine more than two decades ago! - I went to the site and saw that the tickets were $65 ... expensive ... but, I could get a seat in the front row! I hesitated and lost. Yesterday, I decided to buy a less expensive seat - at $55, plus a small fee - in the back, 10th row.
Sure, the 10th row isn't bad. Frankly, it's good. All shows at the Tupleo are good! But I'm kicking myself now. For $10 more and the initiative to buy a ticket in the first place, I could have actually high-fived Richard Butler and let the stage noise from John Ashton and the rest of the band wash over me like a tidal wave of flanged feedback bliss. I originally thought I would blow the show off. I've seen them so ... many ... times ... but then I thought, "Tony, you're lucky if you see one show every two summers these days ... you only live once ... buy a damn ticket ..." So I did. Wifey isn't going; I've dragged her to see them a few times now. So, it will be me, alone with a couple of hundred others, dreaming it was 1984 again ...

Tomorrow: The Psychedelic Furs in my life.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

American suckers ...

Or as Green Day sometimes calls us, American "idiots" ...
Wow, look at this: ["Under Restructuring, GM To Build More Cars Overseas"]. So, even though the taxpayers have given them billions and are expected to give them billions more, we're not really creating jobs in America but overseas. Just call us American suckers.
And the cover of the WSJ yesterday: ["Fed Sees Up to $599 Billion in Bank Losses"] and then this from this morning: ["Banks Won Concessions on Tests"].
And, with all the talk of Obama's budget, which has good and bad things in it, did anyone see the foreign aid provision of $74 billion? I remember back in the late 1990s that the line item was about $15 billion. So, we're "investing" five times as much of our tax dollars overseas than we did 10 years ago. Well, actually, we're borrowing this money from overseas to invest overseas. Our children will pay the interest and debt while attempting to compete with people who will do the work they would normally do at a fraction of the cost. What a friggin' racket!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Breaking the taboo over single-payer

Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader
Among the giant taboos afflicting Congress these days is the proposal to create a single payer health insurance system (often called full Medicare for everyone).
How can this be? Don’t the elected politicians represent the people? Don’t they always have their finger to the wind?
Well, single payer is only supported by a majority of the American people, physicians and nurses. They like the idea of public funding and private delivery. They like the free choice of doctors and hospitals that many are now denied by the HMOs.
There are also great administrative efficiencies when single player displaces the health insurance industry with its claims-denying, benefit-restricting, bureaucratically-heavy profiteering. According to leading researchers in this area, Dr. David Himmelstein and Dr. Stephanie Woolhandler, single payer will save $350 billion annually.
Yet, on Capitol Hill and at the White House there are no meetings, briefings, hearings, and consultations about kinds of health care reforms that reform the basic price inflation, indifference to prevention, and discrimination of health insurers.
There is no place at the table for single payer advocates in the view of the Congressional leaders who set the agenda and muzzle dissenters.
Last month at a breakfast meeting with reporters, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) responded to a question about health care with these revealing and exasperating words: “Over and over again, we hear single payer, single payer, single payer. Well, it’s not going to be a single payer.”
Thus spake Speaker Pelosi, the Representative from Aetna? Never mind that 75 members of her party have signed onto H.R. 676—the Conyers single payer legislation. Never mind that in her San Francisco district, probably three out of four people want single payer. And never mind that over 20,000 people die every year, according to the Institute of Medicine, because they cannot afford health insurance.
What is more remarkable is that many more than the 75 members of the House privately believe single payer is the best option. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Ted Kennedy, and Nancy Pelosi are among them. But they all say, single payer “is not practical” so it’s off the table.
What gives here? The Democrats have the procedures to pass any kind of health reform this year, including single payer. President Obama could sign it into law.
But “it’s not practical” because these politicians fear the insurance and pharmaceutical industries—and seek their campaign contributions—more than they fear the American people. It comes down to the corporations, who have no votes, are organized to the teeth and the people are not.
So, when Senator Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a large recipient of health insurance and drug company donations, held a public roundtable discussion on May 5, fifteen witnesses were preparing to deliver their statements. Not one of them was championing single payer.
As Senator Baucus started his introductory remarks, something happened. One by one, eight people in the audience, most of them physicians and lawyers, stood up to politely but insistently protest the absence of a single payer presentation.
One by one, the police came, took them out of the hearing room, arrested and handcuffed them. The charge was “disruption of Congress”—a misdemeanor.
They call themselves the “Baucus Eight”. Immediately, over the internet and on C-Span, public radio, and the Associated Press, the news spread around the country. You can see the video on singlepayeraction.org.
To the many groups and individuals who have labored for single payer for decades, the Baucus Eight’s protest seemed like an epiphany.
Dr. Quentin Young, a veteran leader for single payer and a founder of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) e-mailed his reaction: “For our part, when the history of this period is written, we believe your action may well be noted as the turning point from a painful, defensive position to a more appropriate offensive position vis-√†-vis Senator Baucus and his health industry co-conspirators.”
Webster’s dictionary defines “taboo” as “a prohibition against touching, saying, or doing something for fear of a mysterious superhuman force.” For both Democrats and Republicans in Congress it is a fear of a very omnipresent supercorporate force.
However, moral and evidential courage is coming. On May 12, 2009, Senator Baucus is having another roundtable discussion with thirteen more witnesses, including those from the business lobbies and their consultants. Word has it that the Senator is about to invite a leading single payer advocate to sit at the table.
Here come the people! Join this historic drive to have our country join the community of western, and some third-world, nations by adopting a state of the art single payer system.
Visit singlepayeraction.org and break the taboo in your region.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Single-payer doesn't even get a hearing!

Ralph Nader has the latest on the move by the government to create a health care system: ["Disruption of Congress"].
Check out this quote:
Baucus crafted a hearing to kick off the health care debate in the Senate yesterday where 15 witnesses would be at the table to discuss health care reform.

The insurance industry was at the table.

The Business Roundtable was at the table.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was at the table.

Blue Cross Blue Shield was at the table.

The Heritage Foundation was at the table.

And corporate liberals like Andy Stern, Ron Pollack, and AARP were at the table.

But not one person who stood for what the majority of Americans, doctors, nurses, and health economists want - single payer - was at the table.

Not one.
So there you go. While some people may not like single-payer - and frankly, I don't even know if I support it anymore either - the fact that not a single advocate for the health care system that every other industrialized nation in the world uses was allowed a seat at the table is a serious problem.
But, that's the Democrats for you. Always limiting voices and testimony that they don't want to hear, like they always have done, like they always will do.
Change you can believe in? No, not at all. Meet the new boss, the same as the old boss. When will this end?

Clemens gets a new show

Samantha Clemens, who used to hold down two hours on Saturday talking progressive politics on WMFO, will have a new show on Boston's "progressive talk" station, WWZN 1510 AM. Clemens was a guest this morning on The Jeff Santos Show when Jeff announced that she will be hosting a show on Saturday mornings starting in June. No times have been set yet, but I'm sure we'll hear more later.
The signal isn't the strongest in metro Boston - it's 50,000 watts and runs in a big circle inside I-495 - but is better than nothing and much larger than WMFO, for sure.
I've been listening to Santos' show all morning and will check it out a few more times before rendering a decision about whether it will succeed or not. I did listen to him a few times when he was on the weekend show and have to say that the flow of this program is a bit better, especially with the rapid fire guests.
Keep an eye out on Samantha's blog: ["Cause and Effect World"], or the station Web site it is here: ["revolutionBoston"] for more information.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

It looks like the Globe will be saved

Dan Kennedy has a bunch of stuff here: ["It's alive!"].

More area media cuts

The UL has a short story this morning about more media cuts in the area: ["WERZ eliminates local morning DJs"]. I never listened to WERZ but I did watch "NH Outlook" and enjoyed the program. I have met Beth Carroll a number of times and she always seemed like a straightforward person to me.

Globe update: Adam Reilly offers this take on the latest NYT offer: ["The Times Co.'s last, shittiest offer"]. I think he is right on this. The lifetime guarantee thing has to go. But, similar to it being impossible to get rid of bad teachers, it is very difficult to get rid of lazy and indifferent union newspaper people. I thought being in a union was about protecting the masses, not the few? Not at the Globe I guess.

Jay Severin [Severino] situation: I haven't had much time to post but have stated some things on Dan Kennedy's blog.
First, having listened to these hosts for many decades now, I'm not really that shocked by his comments. Maybe I have become desensitized by it or something. The whole "Mexican women bringing in VD" thing is a new angle ... maybe he has some firsthand knowledge about that, I don't know. Of course, this is the same man who stated that former gubernatorial candidate Jill Stein had a nice backside ... even though Stein is as thin as a rail and doesn't have a backside!
Severino's recent comments aren't actually that rough or offensive when you consider some of the things on the airwaves these days. And personally, I don't have a problem with Severino calling illegal aliens "criminaliens" because, well, that's what they are. It's insensitive. It's not nice. But, it isn't inaccurate.
It's kinda like calling Grace Ross a "fat lesbian," which is what DiPetro the pseudo "independent man" did. Well, OK, she is a chubby lesbian, she really isn't fat. But, that's what she is. It really didn't warrant a firing ... unless they were trying to get rid of the guy in the first place which WRKO clearly was trying to do [they later replaced him with someone who made significantly less - a young black conservative from New York - like they couldn't find any one in radio in the New England area who was out of work, I mean, any programmer would be stumbling all over them - who later turned out to be an alleged child molester ... wow, what a programming coup! After that, it's Laura Ingraham off the bird, costing nothing].
So, this is probably about money. Lots of it. Severino is rumored to be making more than $1 million. We know Howie Carr is rumored to be making "800 large" or $800k, according to comments people make about him on the air. So Jay making this much is not a surprise. But if the company is trying to get out of the contract and doesn't has a way out, all of a sudden getting wise to what the guy is saying might be the only option. But to pretend you didn't know he was making fun of illegals, the poor, or whatever, that just disingenous. I mean, the station runs promos of the guy attacking illegal aliens. Come on.
Radio programming people have always been hard people to read. You never really know what they are trying to do but with the exception of a few, I've always known them 1) to have massive egos, 2) to be completely out of touch with audiences, 3) to think they are being bold with their programming when they never take a real chance on anything, and 4) to be managers and not leaders, which is why they are constantly out of work all the time.
In closing, we shouldn't be censoring Severino, Carr, Limboob, or anyone else. But there should be a Fairness Doctrine in place that requires federally licensed television and radio broadcasting entities to offer listeners opposing views since, after all, the airwaves are owned by the people. :-)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Wage cuts at the Globe ...

There are rumors going around that Globe employees are being asked to take 23 to 35 percent pay cuts. Of course, most of their reporters make close to 50 to 60 percent more than most reporters in the business. So, I guess the NYT is trying to even things out, in a race to the bottom. But, as the Boston Herald has reported, when times were good, reporters got some pretty good raises. Personally, I'd rather see the paper close.

A yikes update: The Phoenix's Adam Reilly a list of some of the things one of the Globe unions was willing to give up to make up $10M: ["What the Guild offered to give up"].
Take a good, hard look at those benes and you'll realize 1) That they had it way too good, and 2) Now we know why the Globe is virtually bankrupt. And this is just what they are willing to give up - not what they still have!

NH CD 2 forum ...

The New London, N.H. Dems are holding a forum for potential Democratic Congressional candidates for the 2nd Congressional District. The details are here: ["New London NH Democrats"].
If you can't make it, and I won't be making it, you will supposedly be able to watch a Webcast online. This is very, very cool.
I'll be trying to keep track of this race as best I can although people who are really interested in a potential Democratic primary should read BlueHampshire.com.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Post says Globe to close

It looks like it actually is happening: ["N.Y. Times to File Notice It Will Close Boston Globe"].

Newspaper notes, the early May edition

I've been meaning to write some quick newspaper notes about things I have seen or heard that are worthy of a blog post.

First, none of this is corroborated by anyone officially but the rumor that's going around is that there won't be a print edition of the Boston Globe in a couple of months. Three different newspaper folks I know are saying that while the unions made some pretty big concessions, it still isn't going to be enough to save the newspaper. I don't know if this is true or not, but one has to wonder. The nail-biting is reaching a fever pitch.
Here are a few articles with the latest news: ["Agree or else, Globe tells unions"] and ["Globe mailers union yields on lifetime job guarantees; Guild and pressmen still negotiating"]. Howie Carr rips into the Globe here: ["Shed no tears as Boston Globe fat gets Pinched"].
Nothing has been posted by Dan Kennedy or Adam Reilly, two folks who are usually briefed privately about New England media matters. We'll see what comes up for the future.

Ending our subscriptions
I have been meaning to write about this and it seems as good a time as any. I recently let all my daily newspaper subscriptions run out. The reasons are pretty simple: Money and time. Not unlike millions of other folks, the money I was spending on newspapers is put to better use paying for other things. As well, for whatever reason, I just don't have the time to read them any more. They essentially pile up all week and then I try and spend some time on the weekend catching up.
First to go was the New Hampshire Union Leader last year. I found that most of the state news featured in the UL - the only reason I was buying it - I could also find in the Concord Monitor or online. I kept the Sunday edition for a while but in the fall stopped getting that too. In order to save money, I've stopped buying most of stuff I needed coupons for. So, I don't often need the coupons that come in the Sunday newspapers, one of the big pluses for buying the Sunday newspaper.
I'm still getting the Wall Street Journal but it ends in a week or two. I would like to continue getting it. The WSJ really is an impressive newspaper and I learn so much from reading it. However, the time thing kicks in each and every week. You can't really skim it. You need to READ it. They keep bugging me to resubscribe but they want $150 for the renewal. I have never paid more than $99 for it. If it ends and they come back with a $99 offer again, I may keep getting it. It really is worth the $1 a week.
After many, many years, probably more than three decades, my household no longer subscribes to the Concord Monitor. This was another hard decision based more on finances than anything else. At $35 for eight weeks [I always round up], it might not seem like a lot. But that money, like the UL and cutting the grocery coupon extravagances, is being put to better use. As well, considering the time thing again, I don't often have the time to read it as thoroughly as possible. A quick gander at the headlines online is about all the time I have for the newspaper these days.
It may seem like a complete cop out for a newspaper man to admit that he has [financially] abandoned his local newspapers. It does feel weird. But, at the same time, if there was a Concord weekly which provided me the same type of serious news that I provide readers at my job, I would subscribe to that. But that isn't an option. I also long for a newspaper that will actually give me the hard-hitting, serious news that I long to read about and not distractions or silly things.
Admittedly, for the first time in my life, I also now understand a bit more what my elders always said about not having the time to keep up with new music or trends and cocooning yourself because the most important things are keeping your job, protecting and tending to your family, etc.
I hope to resubscribe to the Monitor again in the future once things settle down financially. While the online experience is interesting - especially with all the outlandish comments - I do miss the print edition.

Changes in the industry
I have reported here previously some of the changes in the newspaper business locally. Unlike the Boston area, which has Media Nation and Don't Quote Me, there doesn't seem to be anyone blogging about media. So, I'm glad to do it.
Here are some of the latest changes I have noticed.
The Union Leader seems to have ceased publication on Saturdays. I noticed a couple of weeks ago that there was a new Friday/Saturday hybrid edition on sale Friday mornings and then the Sunday edition. I saw one complaint about the change on my Facebook account this week so I guess it is a done deal [A Google search yielded no official announcement or anything else about the change]. This seems like a smart move considering that Saturday editions in the business have always been the worst ones for sales, ads, and news - unless there is a bomb dropped nationally on Friday night.

Update: A co-worker of mine sent me the text from the most recent NEPA alert that mentioned the change at the UL. Essentially, the company combined the Friday and Saturday editions for editions outside the "Greater Manchester" area. According to the release, "Greater Manchester includes Auburn, Allenstown, Atkinson, Bedford, Candia, Chester, Danville, Deerfield, Derry, Dunbarton, Epping, Goffstown, Hampstead, Hooksett, Litchfield, Londonderry, Manchester, Merrimack, New Boston, Pelham, Pembroke, Plaistow, Raymond, Salem, Sandown, Weare and Windham, all in New Hampshire." So I wouldn't see it since I'm outside of that area. Thanks Robert for the information!

The Union Leader will offer subscribers receiving the combined edition options such as free access to an electronic version of the Greater Manchester Saturday paper and a subscription extension.

As an aside, the Miami Herald has gone to a Saturday/Sunday hybrid edition. I noticed it when I was there recently for a wedding. My brothers and sisters, who are in their 20s, don't subscribe to the newspaper. So, I went daily to the little bodega down the street to get the Herald. On Saturday morning, there was the hybrid edition - at only 50 cents! It included Saturday news on the front plus the guts of the Sunday newspaper - flyers, real estate, Parade, etc. Wow. Not only a bargain but I actually had a chance to skim through the thing before the wedding. Very cool idea.
A not so cool idea? The Monitor's massive left hand side rail on Saturdays that promos what is in the inside of the newspaper. It, frankly, reeks, "We don't have enough news to put on the front page so let's put a huge rail on the left hand side." It just looks really bad. The rail would look cool if it were smaller. And, it would look cool as an every day thing. Many newspapers are starting to put content rails on the front page in order to make up for the fact that they don't have the news or staffing to fill the front page each and every day or week. It really stands out as a useful tool but not when it is so big. The Monitor might consider scrapping the Saturday edition, having staff produce enough stuff in the can to be used on Saturday to have at least a few things on the front page, a Friday/Saturday hybrid edition, or produce a hybrid Saturday/Sunday edition.
Two more South Florida notes: I really enjoyed the Sun Sentinel's redesign. Big blocky letters, big headlines, small pull graphics and quick hit things to read. Lots of color everywhere. I really liked it compared to the stodgy Sun Sentinel. The Miami New Times is also still as good a newspaper as it was in the past although I noticed that it was a lot smaller than in years past. I mean, a lot smaller, like 50 to 60 percent in page counts. Yikes!
Speaking of alternative weeklies, I noticed that the Hippo was 56 pages this week, that's down from a hefty 70-plus pages this time two years ago.

A bit of bragging
In closing, I want to brag a bit: At my company, the newspaper I edit, the Belmont Citizen-Herald, recently was named an interoffice finalist in the GateHouse Media Best Newspaper of 2008 category. Basically, we tied for third with a handful of other weeklies out of nearly 300. The newspaper was the only one to show in the NorthWest unit. We were judged by peers in the business at the University of Missouri so there was no insider voting.
While I know we do a pretty good job, I was really surprised that we placed especially when considering all the great community newspapers at GateHouse. Combined with the NEPA Award, 2008 was a pretty good year professionally for this lowly editor. Here's hoping as many of us get to stay employed in the business we love for as long as we can.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Lethargy Virus

Guest Perspective/Ralph Nader
The Swine Flu (or H1N1 virus) is in the air. The public health authorities are acting “in excess of caution” to curb its spread from Mexico into this country. Already, however, this virus and the publicity around it is providing another occasion to question our nation’s priorities.

Let’s put it this way—the gravest terrorists in the world today are viruses and bacterium and their astonishing ability to mutate, hitchhike and devastate human beings. Yet despite small outbreaks—such as the SARS virus from China—we collectively seem to be waiting until the “big pandemic” before we come to our senses and redefine national security and national defense.

It is not that we are unaware of the massive toll that tuberculosis, malaria, AIDS and many other infectious diseases exact year after year. Just those three diseases take over 5 million lives a year. It is not that we fail to realize how international trade, tourism and other travels—together with environmental disruptions—accelerate the spread and range of these silent forms of violence.

Our lethargy stems from the fact that the causes of such casualties are seen as impersonal, unlike 9/11 terrorists or state inflicted terrorism which is viewed as anthropomorphic. That is, they are attributed to proper names of specific people, gangs, armies and nations.

In 2004, when I was on the Bill Maher show, Bill asked me why I was running for president outside the two major parties. I replied that one reason was to call public attention to such issues as our nation’s approach to infectious diseases. Maher gave me that look of his and blurted “aw come on!”

For years before that campaign, the inattention given to these invisible marauders was irrational. First came complacency. In the nineteen fifties, professors at Harvard University advised students not to specialize in infectious diseases because the new rush of antibiotics had placed them under control. Myopic indeed. Our country now has a serious shortage of MDs, public health experts and other scientists to confront, prevent and treat these diseases here and abroad.

About 130 countries have signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which, in Article 12, provides that everyone should enjoy the “highest attainable standard” of well-being, to be attained by the “prevention, treatment, and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational, and other diseases.” The U.S. signed this treaty in 1979, but it has never been ratified by the U.S. Senate.

The appearance of drug-resistant tuberculosis in the U.S. during the early nineteen nineties helped prompt the Tuberculosis Initiative, organized in 1997, by my Princeton Class of 1955, to press public and elected officials in Washington to increase funds and activities regarding this scourge. The Soros and Gates Foundations have put resources into a global assault on TB, working with the World Health Organization (WHO).
WHO’s total budget last year was $4.2 billion—a pittance given its urgent responsibilities. The United States government’s contribution—twenty two percent—has been in chronic arrears. By comparison, our government has granted trillions of dollars since September to the financial perpetrators of the epidemic of Wall Street speculation, fraud and costly criminal greed.

While for state and local health departments, budget cuts have reduced hundred of millions of dollars and thousands of workers on what the New York Times calls “the front line in the country’s defense against a possible swine flu pandemic.”

Meanwhile, before the recent swine flu news, Senators, including Republicans Susan Collins and Arlen Spector (before his conversion to the Democratic Party) cut $780 million from Barack Obama’s stimulus package for pandemic flu preparation.

To be sure, in recent years, both the Bush Administration and Democrats, such as Senator Patrick Leahy, have moved the needle toward spending more on vaccine research, medical technology and contingency planning. This is a response, in part, to post 9/11 fears and the continuing reluctance of the drug industry CEOs to apply their profits to discovering vaccines, which by their infrequent usage, they deem not profitable enough.

Maybe the giant steps forward will come after some members of Congress themselves come down with these ailments during their travels. As one House legislative aide said, “that’ll get their attention,” adding wryly “but only if it’s broadly bi-partisan.”

Almost seventy years ago, Wendell Willkie, the Republican nominee challenging Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1940 elections, wrote a prescient book titled One World. When it comes to contagious micro-organisms, there are no boundaries without internationally sustained human efforts.

Gov. Patrick for the U.S. Supreme Court?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAH, LOL: ["Could Gov. Patrick replace Justice Souter?"]. Even Alan Dershowitz thinks it's a bad idea: ["Dershowitz: Choosing Deval would be Supreme mistake"].