Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

'Hot Buttered Soul'

Just got done listening to Isaac Hayes' "Hot Buttered Soul" record. It's time to go to sleep now ... but for all you night owls, here's a little live Soulsville for you ... from one of his last shows:

Monday, July 27, 2009

For those of you following the Gates-Crowley case ...

Audio has been released of the 911 call: ["911 Tape Reveals Caller Did Not Bring Up Race Of Gates"].
The headline is not accurate because the caller does actually state that one of them looked "Hispanic" when the dispatch officer asked twice if the men were "white, black, or Hispanic." So, she did convey the race of Gates - just not the correct race.
And where does Wendy Murphy go off saying the woman is a minority because she is Portuguese? That's a new one. I'm going to have to ask her about that ...
Here is another link with partial audio of Crowley describing the situation: ["Cambridge Officer/Dispatch Audio: ‘He Is Not Cooperative’"].
This all doesn't rectify anything and let's hope that the media doesn't use this audio to escalate the situation. What we all want to see is President Obama, Professor Gates, and Sgt. Crowley, sitting down and having a beer together ...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Kevin Sowyrda reemerges, sorta ...

For those of you who may remember Republican consultant and radio talk show host Kevin Sowyrda, an oft-quoted, astute observer of Massachusetts politics, he has "re-emerged," in a sense, with a new blog: ["The Boston Memo"].
Technically, "re-emerged" isn't quite accurate because he never went away. Sowyrda has been writing columns for the South End News for a number of years. But for a number of years there, in the mid-to-late 1990s, you couldn't get away from his quips which landed him in print publications all around Boston.
Personally, I remember Sowyrda best from his early Monday morning overnight show on WBZ 1030 AM. I would listen to the 'BZ overnight crew in the background when I held down the overnight shift at WUNR, another Boston AM radio station. Admittedly, sometimes, I would check out Art Bell, who was also entertaining and would cover all kinds of weird stuff. But sometimes, like the time he had the audio from Russia that was thought to be "the sounds from hell ..." I just had to shut if off [D'oh!]. It was Bob Raleigh, Steve Leveille, Jordan Rich, and Sowyrda entertaining the night away.
In fact, compared to daytime talk radio in Boston at the time, listening to the WBZ overnight folks was a real joy. Sometimes, Raleigh's obsession with the death penalty, and the Sacco and Vanzetti case, of what, 70 years ago?, would drive me up the wall. And I teased Sowyrda recently over email that he was a tad obsessed with "Titannic" at the time ... But Raleigh's trivia contest was fun and Sowyrda's commentary about politics were snappy and snarky, at a time when snarky was fresh and new.
Late night and early morning callers are both hilarious and insane, in their own unique way, and it's too bad we can't get them on in the daytime. It would be an improvement over what is sometimes on these days, or at least it seems to be that way. Maybe my memory is a bit colored in old age.
Ironically, or not so, Sowyrda lives in southern New Hampshire but still focuses on Massachusetts politics, not unlike this site. I guess, you never stop doing what you do best, right? Check out The Boston Memo. It's been redesigned and is well-worth the looksie.

Gates, Crowley, related?

That's what IrishCentral.com is saying: ["Harvard prof Gates is half-Irish, related to cop who arrested him"].
Radio broadcaster Samantha Clemens gets a kudos for this one, something she mentioned on her program yesterday and posted to facebook earlier today.
If this is true, wow, is just about all you can say. It will make for interesting conversation when they both get together with the president for a beer ... Of course, if you're Christian, then you know that technically, everyone in the world is related, as descendants of Adam and Eve [or, at least many Adam and Eves around the world].
Or, as John McCain stated during the ridiculous proposal to naturalize millions of illegal aliens, "we're all God's children." To a point, yes in indeed, we are.

Autodrone

I'm totally digging this NY band Autodrone this morning:


AutodroneQuantcast

Quite by accident, I found out about this ReverbNation site after clicking on the Dark Heart Alarm link David provided over on the Bunnymen LISTSERV. After listening to a few of his tunes, I started hopping around to other sites and came across this band. They kinda remind me of this Texas shoegazer band from the early 2000s I totally loved called Astroblast.

"What we need is speed ... greasy, lightning fast speed ..."


A print screen from Saturday morning testing of Comcast's broadband speed in New Hampshire. Note that when tested, it blew away most everyone else in the world.
Of course the quote, if you don't recognize it, is from "Rocky II," where trainer Mickey, played by Burgess Meredith is lecturing Rocky about how slow he is and in order to beat Apollo Creed, he needs to get the lead out.
Anyway, the CWA has been on this campaign called "Speed Matters" for quite a while now, making the case that the entire nation should be wired with broadband. They are, of course, correct. I took the test last year and Comcast turned out to be quite slow at the time. However, yesterday, after being prompted by an email, I took the test again, and the results were much, much better, as you can see from the print screen above.
So, where does that leave us? Well, lots of folks in the country still don't have broadband (or can't afford it, which is just as significant a problem) and average speeds in New Hampshire are still pretty slow, reportedly. For the most part, I'm pretty happy with Comcast's Internet service. Sometimes, like when it rains, the connection can be spotty. But when I have a problem, the customer service folks are very helpful. Cost, is a different issue.
Ideally, I'm waiting for the day when we don't have to pay for cable television and, instead, can just get all the television we want piped through the Internet. We are almost there, at least in theory, since users can sometimes get whatever show they want, here and there.
But, at some point, something has to break, especially if the depression continues for any great length of time. Close to $100 monthly cable and Internet bills are fine when times are good but not when times are bad. Some are suggesting it could be another three to five years before things turn around, with the head of the Federal Reserve saying that it could be a "jobless" economic recovery. Note this week that the Dow headed up over 9,000 for the first time since January, as well as the highest weekly gains since 2000. Well, big deal. That's Wall Street, not Main Street. The economic recover needs to happen on Main Street whether Wall Street likes it or not. So far, that isn't happening, and one has to wonder whether it ever will. Will it be long before everyone starts shutting off the cable and Internet to make ends meet? Haven't some already done that?

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Obama follows Clintons' mistakes on health care

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
About the only lesson Barack Obama has learned from the Hillary and Bill health insurance debacle of 1993-1994 is to leave Michelle Obama out of his current drive to get something—anything—through the Congress labeled “reform”.

Otherwise, he is making the same mistakes of blurring his proposal, catering to right-wing Democrats and corporatist Republicans, who want an even mushier “reform” scam, and cutting deals with the drug, hospital, and health insurance industries.

His political opponents become bolder with each day as they see his party base in Congress weakening, his polls dropping, and a confused public being saturated with unrebutted propaganda by the insatiable profiteering, subsidized health care giants.

Their campaign-money-greased minions on Capitol Hill and the corporatist Think Tanks and columnists are seizing on President Obama’s aversion to conflict and repeated willingness to water down what he will fight for.

The loud and cruel baying pack comes in the form of William Kristol (“This is not time to pull punches. Go for the kill.”), Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) (“If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”), and Charles Krauthammer yammering wildly about medical malpractice and tort law. Krauthammer does not substantiate his claims or mention the many victims of malpractice as he gleefully predicts “Obamacare sinking.”

All these critics have gold-plated health insurance, of course.

Hillary tried to appease the drug and hospital companies. Obama invites them to the White House, where they presumably pledged to give up nearly $300 billion dollars over ten years without any specifics about how this complex assurance can be policed.

No matter, in return Obama and his aides agreed not to press Congress to authorize the federal government to negotiate drug prices with the drug industry. Don’t worry: the taxpayers will pay the bill.

At a meeting on July 7 at the White House between drug company executives, Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), the industry, according to The New York Times, was promised that the final legislative package would not allow the reimportation of cheaper medicines from Canada or other countries even if they meet our drug safety standards.

Since these industry meetings at the White House are private, no one knows how many other concessions were made. What is known is that Barack Obama knows better. A former supporter of single payer health insurance (often described as full Medicare for all with free choice of physician and hospital and the elimination of hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate administrative costs and billing fraud), then-Illinois state senator Barack Obama predicted, in 2003, that it would be enacted once Congress and the White House were controlled by Democrats. Well, that is now the situation, but, as President, he believes single payer is not “practical”.

Single payer health insurance is supported by a majority of the American people, majority of physicians and nurses, and nearly ninety members of the House of Representatives. (See H.R. 676 and singlepayeraction.org.)

A clear replacement of the private health insurance companies with federal insurance, as Medicare for the elderly did in 1965, allows for clear language. Twenty thousand people die in America each year because they cannot afford health insurance, according to the Institute of Medicine. Hundreds of thousands more suffer because they have no insurance to treat their diseases or injuries.

Single payer means everyone is covered from birth, as is the case now in every western nation. Imagine no lives lost or suffering due to no health insurance.

Fuzzy proposals, regularly altered and over-complicated due to the hordes of avaricious corporate lobbyists, make politicians like Obama very susceptible to lurid descriptions and lies by his vocal, well-insured opponents. Finally, the Obama people are using “health insurance reform”, rather than the misnomer “health care reform” which opened them up to charges that government would take over health care. All proposals, including single payer, are based on private delivery of health care.

Now enters the well-insured libertarian Cato Institute with full-page ads in the Washington Post and The New York Times charging Obama with pursuing government-run health care. A picture of Uncle Sam pointing under the headline “Your New Doctor.” Nonsense. The well-insured people at Cato should know better than to declare that this “government takeover” would “reduce health care quality.”

About 100,000 lives are lost from medical-hospital negligence per year, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. This vast tragedy is hardly going to get worse under universal government health insurance that assembles data patterns to reduce waste, enhances quality, and transparency. By contrast, the secretive big health insurers who make more money the more they deny claims, ignore their loss prevention duties.

In 1950, when President Truman sent a universal health insurance bill to Congress, the American Medical Association (AMA) launched what was then a massive counterattack. The AMA claimed that government health insurance would lead to rationing of health care, higher prices, diminished choices and more bureaucracy. The AMA beat both Truman and the unions that were backing the legislation, using the phrase “socialized medicine” to scare the people.

Fifty-nine years later, “corporatized medicine” has produced all these consequences, along with stripping away the medical profession’s independence. Today, the irony is that the corporate supremacists are accusing reformers in Washington of what they themselves have produced throughout the country. Rationing, higher prices, less choice, and mounds of paperwork and corporate red tape. Plus, fifty million people without any health insurance at all.

On Thursday, July 30, 2009, there will be a mass rally for a single payer system in Washington, DC. It is time to put what most Americans want on the table. (See www.Healthcare-Now.org for more information.)

Friday, July 24, 2009

On the radio Saturday morning

Updated: On Saturday morning, I'll be doing a bit with Samantha Clemens on her new show heard on 1510 AM in the Boston area or online at www.revolutionBoston.com. The show airs from 10 to 11 a.m.; I'm expected to be on at the top of the hour.
I think we will be talking about the Henry Gates arrest issue, racial profiling in general, or maybe another topic. Who knows. Tune in and check it out.
WWZN's signal says it runs from Manch to Providence in a big circle around 495. If you can't get it on your table top, you can listen online too.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tausch out

Before he could even get in, Fred Tausch is out of a potential Senate race: ["Investor won't run in 2010"].
Dorgan notes in her article:
"Tausch's decision also comes days after the Monitor ran a profile of Tausch that explored his unorthodox political past ..."
I don't know if this is true or not, but it probably didn't help matters. Plus, with Ayotte taking officially taking the plunge, there was little to no hope for Tausch.
The key now will be to see if he runs for something else and what he does, politically, with all his money, since he likes to spend it. It will also be interesting to see what Charlie Bass' move is at this point.
On the Congressional side of things, there have been a bunch of candidates eyeing the seat held by Hodes and formerly held by Bass. One interesting thing I saw on facebook last night is that Franklin Mayor Ken Merrifield is lining up support for a re-election campaign this fall. A friend named "Susan" stated that she had hoped the announcement would be for something else. Ken then wrote, "first things first, right...?"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sign the economy is still bad? Layaway for concert tickets

Can't afford to see your favorite summer concerts this year? Don't worry, Meadowbrook up in Gilford, N.H. has a brand new plan - layaway for concert tickets:
For the first time ever, we are offering the option to put concert tickets on layaway. Reserve the best available seats right now by putting down only a small deposit and then have the luxury of paying off the balance with three weekly installments ... the perfect cure for the low-budget blues!
Well now, when I first saw this I thought, How silly. But thinking about it now, a bit deeper, this is an interesting idea. Instead of charging tickets or taking all the money out for the tickets, you can just make the small payments yourself, like everyone used to do in the old days. This actually will be a much better system next year, if they decide to continue it. When they start the sked in February or March, you can line up your tickets and then make small installments weekly until the tickets are paid off. This way, you take money away from the credit card companies, you don't take a huge lump sum taken out of your pocket, and the venue and bands get people in the seats. That's a win, win, win.
However, this is a sign of a bad economy. People just don't have hundreds of dollars a month in disposal income to be throwing at pretty mediocre bands to begin with. I mean, look at the bands that are left: Steve Miller and the Doobie Brothers ... retire already! Lynyrd Skynyrd and Joan Jett ... OK, Joan Jett rules. But Skynyrd? Come on. Aren't half those guys gone to the netherworld? The Moody Blues. I love the Moody Blues. But there are only three original members at this point, and the brilliant keyboardist Patrick Moraz left years ago. I saw them in 1986 and I don't think they will ever be able to top that show, even with all the cool gadgets. Priest? Ugh. Allman Brothers? Hmm. Whose playing guitar? And then, country stuff ... ugh.
Or, maybe, there are just too many acts touring these days. I don't know if it is just me or not, but I don't have a lot of interest in seeing many concerts these days. I would much prefer to buy a DVD for $15 and have the entire concert available to view any time. I was thinking about getting Blondie/Pat Benatar tickets because, who knows how many times Blondie will tour again, and I've never seen them. I did go see the Psychedelic Furs, but that was a bit different. I should have gone to see the Curtain Society last night with Mark Burgess of the Chameleons but came home to sleep instead [Marty Wilson-Piper from The Church apparently showed up to sit in on a few songs ... what was I thinking by not going?] The Pretenders and Missing Persons are playing at two different New Hampshire venues on Aug. 8, a night I have family stuff going on. Oh well.
One of the things we music fans don't really realize is that many musicians don't have a lot of money. Some have tons - or did before their investments tanked too. But if they weren't frugal, they have probably blown through whatever they had during their heyday. That means they have to go to work, not unlike retired sports stars. But, there comes a time when there are just too many bands competing for too few fans at concert venues. I don't know if we have reached that time but I bet we're close to it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Escalation or racism?

Be prepared for more conversations about "race in America" as a result of Henry Louis Gates Jr. being arrested for disorderly conduct in Cambridge after police tried to question him for breaking into his own house: ["Harvard's Henry Louis Gates claims racism in Cambridge arrest"].
Maybe those conversations are needed because of unhealed wounds and other issues, but they are not needed because of this incident. I find it hilarious that Gates would pull a Kennedy - "Don't you know who I am?" - when asked to step out of the house to talk to the officer in this situation. A simple, "I'm Henry Louis Gates, I live here, here is my driver's license proving I live here ..." would have ended this entire situation. It is something any one of us would do in a similar situation, whether white or black, Harvard Square or Mission Hill. Instead, Gates is the one who pulled the race card by questioning the need to talk to an officer in the first place, shouting, "Why, because I'm a black man in America?" He got uppity, if you will, and escalated matters into a situation that never needed to happen.
Also, keep an eye out for a sidebar to this story - how some of the cops who showed up to the Gates home were black and also didn't know who the heck he was! I noticed this in the television reports last night. If the black cops don't know who Gates is, how are the white cops supposed to know? And congratulations to all the cops who seemed to equally enforce the disorderly conduct provision of the law. We all know how celebrities of all walks of life seem to get away with, well, murder these days. Once they found out who Gates was, they could have left him alone and let him stew. Instead, they treated him like an equal Joe and took him away in cuffs. That's equality Mr. Gates, when you are treated just as others are treated. Don't you love it?
All Americans should be outraged by this incident and not because Gates was being profiled but because Gates immediately played the race card and the part of the victim instead of resolving what otherwise should have been perceived as a serious situation. Someone as educated as he is should have known better than to behave this way. Wasn't Gates worried that his home was being broken into? Why was he being so irresponsible? Or, are cops just supposed to assume that because its been raining a lot and all the doors on homes in Harvard Square get stuck these days, a lot of folks will be pushing on them hard, and looking as if they are breaking and entering. Come on.
I'm not a police officer and despite tests in high school suggesting I become one, I would never be a police officer. I was just never interested in the job and I can't imagine the stress that some officers are under these days. At the same time, there are some pretty bad cops out there and citizens need to protect themselves from them.
However, trust me when I say, no matter what race you are or what neighborhood you live in, the best way to deal with any cop is to just keep your mouth shut and do what they ask. That's what the ACLU advises and that's what I do. Give them your license and registration, don't answer questions, don't say a word. Shrug your shoulders because anything you say can be used against you. If they come to your house, don't let them in, whatever you do, because that can open yourself up to investigation ["Hey, there isn't a child proof lock on that can opener ..."]. But do open the door and speak with them politely and respectfully to resolve the matter and be done with it.
Escalating matters to make some self-righteous point - which was a wrong point in the first place - will just reserve a seat for you in the slammer. It's not worth the humiliation, as Gates is finding out now. At least he will be able to rise above it, due to his stature ... that's something a lot of folks never do rise above and never get over.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Very early N.H. Senate poll: A squeaker for Hodes

Daily Kos/Research 2000 release a New Hampshire U.S. Senate poll recently that shows Rep. Paul Hodes would be in a tight race with two potential GOP rivals for the seat, with one beating him: ["Daily Kos/Research 2000 New Hampshire Poll"].
Hodes would beat former Rep. Charlie Bass in a head-to-head by 5 points but against AG Kelly Ayotte, he loses by 1 percent, with 2 percent going to "Other" [are those renegade votes for Bass or an unnamed Libertarian?].
Granted, when looking at the undecideds, 16 months before the election, it is anyone's game. But Dems might be gearing up for a fight against Ayotte, which is why we might be seeing comments like these on a more regular basis: ["Is 'pulling a Palin' the best they can do against Ayotte?"]
There are some other numbers here that are worth noting in the poll concerning the 2010 races.
First, sticking with the Senate for a second, Bass has much higher unfavorables with Dems and indies than Ayotte, 35 to 21; 22 to 12. Men give Ayotte higher favorables too, 40 to 35. Also, when put head-to-head, Ayotte seems earns back Republican votes that Bass loses to Hodes or that remain undecided although, granted, the numbers are small. Against Ayotte, Hodes loses 2 percent of the Dem vote although it looks like those votes go into the undecided pile not to Ayotte. A similar dynamic happens with 18-29 and women voters - Hodes loses 4 percent but Ayotte only gains a bit back.
Deep inside the poll, there are some good numbers for the president and governor.
Obama has a 62 to 30 approval rating, which is very good considering our state is relatively moderate and hasn't yet been hit as hard by the depression as places like Michigan, for example. Lynch has similar numbers with 61 percent saying they would vote to re-elect him and only 39 percent considering replacing him or voting for another candidate.
Interestingly, 49 percent disapprove of gay marriage in the poll, with 41 percent approving. Of the Dems, 37 percent disapprove and 44 percent disapprove of gay marriage.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A neat story about bands and their idols ...

As some of you know, I have been a huge fan of this Worcester band called The Curtain Society for as long as I can remember. When I was gigging on a regular basis, in the Boston area, the bands I was in would open for them and vice versa. I haven't seen them in ages although I still listen to the band's music.
The three members of the band are huge fans of this British band called The Chameleons [or, Chameleons UK, as they were called in the day ...], a band that never really quite made it beyond rabid cult status in the states. Singer Mark Burgess has been in other bands and played solo, but he always comes back to the magic stuff he created with The Chameleons.
On Tuesday, Burgess will be in Boston for a solo show at the Hennessey and The Curtain Society will be sitting in on the set. This is not only very cool but a dream come true for the band members.
Roger has a bit here about how excited he is, from a Worcester blog: ["The Curtain Society and the Chameleons"].
A former work colleague of mine, Mike Marotta, who now writes for the Boston Herald, has a bit here about the gig and will have more in Monday's newspaper: ["Curtain Society to back Mark Burgess (Chameleons)"].
It's all very cool all around although, admittedly, I would often razz Roger about playing "Swamp Thing" - even if the girls loved it. I recall that at least once, he mouthed from a state, "Sorry," after starting the opening guitar lines to the song, to much fanfare ... like he had some reason to apologize, pleasing other fans and nailing the song down perfectly.
It wasn't that long ago, we all remember, when you couldn't get into a daily newspaper like the Herald with any promotion for a cool story like this. Thank goodness for people like Mike over there now.
Congrats on the gig, guys. I'm a tad jealous and I hope to be there to watch it with you.

Back in the U.S.A.

Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader
On July 30th, an American manufacturer in China and Korea will officially announce the move of its tool manufacturing facilities to Houston, Texas. Farouk Systems will open a factory with the goal of creating 1277 jobs at a new 189,000 sq. ft. facility in the South’s largest metropolis.

Farouk Shami, founder and executive chairman, says the new plant will manufacture “three of its top selling flat irons and two top-selling hair dryers, of which the company sells over three million a year.”

How can this be? Thousands of American companies—electronic, machinery, auto supply, and many other sectors—have rushed to the communist dictatorship of China in the past two decades to take advantage of repressed labor and the relative freedom to pollute and get away with activities banned in the U.S.A. Millions of American jobs and hundreds of communities have suffered due to this exodus.

Why are Mr. Shami and his colleagues returning to the U.S.A?

Company officials gave several economic reasons. First, new super-automation in the U.S. increases worker productivity far beyond productivity in China. Second, the company was experiencing levels of product defects in China that were costly. Third, given the increased costs of transportation—bottlenecks to Chinese ports and the burden of crossing the Pacific helped to level the cost playing-field.

Farouk Systems’ lowest wages will be $10.00 per hour or $2.75 higher than the new federal minimum wage effective this month.

The firm expects to have 1,277 employees by the end of this year and intends to expand further into the production of small home appliance such as blenders, toasters, coffee makers, vacuum cleaners and clothing irons.

Mr. Shami—a Palestinian immigrant of considerable entrepreneurial exuberance—says that this move from China “will enable us to assure the best quality, safest, and lead free products and also will help reverse the outsourcing trend by bringing manufacturing back to the U.S.A. in order to stimulate the American economy.”

Is this a harbinger of a trend against industrial flight from our country? That remains to be seen. What is more certain is that trade relations between China and the US challenge put the lie to the ideology of “win-win” free trade.

The US trade deficit with China has deepened over the last quarter-century. In 1985 the trade deficit was $6 billion. In 1995 China sold us over $33 billion more than we sold to China. In 2005, the trade deficit ballooned to over $202 billion dollars. Last year it zoomed to $268 billion.

Imagine exporting so many jobs to a country which has sold us contaminated fish, defective tires, hazardous materials for medicines and housing, and lead-tainted products—to name a few of the hazardous products shipped past the porous portals of the USDA, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Customs Service.

In addition, as detailed regularly in the reports of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (www.uscc.gov) there are the manipulated undervaluing of China’s currency, import barriers, violations of the World Trade Organization’s rules and other trade-distorting measures that tilt the balance heavily in China’s favor.

What is the US getting out of this continually deteriorating imbalance of trade and its accompanying technology transfer to a nation that admits it has not had much success in curbing the large volume of counterfeit goods that are exported? Huge indebtedness. China does loan us money, to finance our huge deficits.

Established “free trade” economists like retired MIT professor Paul Samuelson are rethinking the classical principles of free trade and comparative advantage. When the advantages of capital, labor and technology are heavily with one trading partner, “absolute advantage” replaces “comparative advantage.” With such conditions, the 19th century metaphor of trading Portuguese wine for British textiles is not operative.

So anemic is the U.S. government that it cannot even enforce a 15 year old memorandum of cooperation that relates to detecting any Chinese prison labor exports to the United States, which would be WTO-illegal. China has repeatedly violated the bilateral agreement to grant permission for U.S. authorities to visit suspect prison labor sites.

Any demand or request that Congress and the White House re-evaluate this kind of systemically unfair trade with dictatorial regimes is met with the chorus of “free trade, free trade” and the riposte of “protectionism.” Dogmatic proponents of corporate-managed trade masquerading as free trade reject “options for revision”, no matter what the evidence.”

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Interactive content provider available for part-time work

Due to the economic climate and a recent pay cut at my full-time job, I’m seeking a small amount of part-time work to get through these tough economic times. If you run a media entity, marketing company, arts or political organization and are looking for a part-time contract worker with diverse life and employment experience, I may be your guy.

I’m an award-winning newspaper editor and broadcast journalist with extensive print, Web, and audio recording experience. Print, audio, Web, text, blogs, and video … you name it. Unlike the normal print journalist or radio broadcaster who may be limited by the format work they can offer, I am an interactive content provider with the flexibility to deliver news and information whenever and wherever possible. I have a good work ethic, and I’m efficient and affordable. I also enjoy working on all kinds of different projects. I know how to tell a story, talk to people, create features, and work on longer, investigative and enterprise-like pieces. I also have previous experience in sales, marketing, and retail, so I could assist with a consulting project too, if you need a fresh set of eyes to look at something.

Are you a newspaper or radio station who needs something done quickly and on the fly? Are you about to launch a new product and need a critical and honest assessment of where you are at? Do you need someone to copyedit your proposal before your big appointment or presentation? Would you like an event or meeting recorded and edited so it can be assimilated by many people, in different parts of the world? I can do just about anything. No job is too small.

I am able to work virtually, anywhere in Southern New Hampshire, some parts of Massachusetts [in areas and formats that do not compete with my full-time employer], and nationally. Potential work hours include most early weekday mornings, Thursday or Friday afternoons [with advance notice] and weekends.

I am not interested in anything having to do with sales or any commission-based pay structure.

Please feel free to contact me for a copy of my resume, news clippings, Web links, or audio work: tonyschinella-at-yahoo.com.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Deficit tops $1T!

For the first time, the annual deficit - not the debt, the deficit - tops more than $1 trillion: ["Budget Deficit Tops $1 Trillion For First Time"].
That's $1,000,000,000,000 folks. The administration is saying that the deficit could reach $1.8 trillion by October. How much you want to bet it gets to $2T before the end of the year?
Oh, and yeah, the interest payments on the debt have gone up too and are now one of the largest line items in the federal budget:
Interest payments on the debt cost $452 billion last year -- the largest federal spending category after Medicare-Medicaid, Social Security and defense.
Sigh. I remember when interest on the debt was only about $200 billion a year!

Surprise, young people fleeing NH is a myth!

And even if it weren't a myth, does it really matter?: ["Report released on retaining NH's young workers"]. Here is the opening - and killer - quote:
"The idea that young people are fleeing New Hampshire in droves is more myth than reality ..."
Thank you. I could have told you that! There are young people all over the place, going to nightclubs and concerts, raising families, etc. I see them downtown; I see them in Manch and Nashua; and they are at the grocery store too, children in tow.
The big joke about Concord was that it was "the city in a coma." A guy even made shirts saying "city in a coma" and made a nice clip. I mean, we didn't have a bagel shop here 25 years ago and now we do! I used to tell people that I decided to move back because they finally got some bagel shops but that's just a joke. Things aren't so bad here and lots of different types of folks are learning to live with each other.
The bigger problem is a bit more glaring though. I wrote a little bit about this last year: ["Community screening Thursday"].
It is more, however, than just a veiled attempt to get a broad-based tax approved in New Hampshire so that all these folks in government have more money to play with. This is about changing the state. One can argue whether this is good idea or bad idea. Some of the changes have already happened as the state has become less conservative. I mean, who in a million years would have guessed that gay marriage would be approved in the Granite State a year after civil unions were approved, never mind any time in the 21st century? The taxes are another issue and wouldn't be so bad if they were spent on the things they were supposed to be spent on.
But, frankly, despite what people say, I honestly would lean towards the thinking that beyond the fact that there aren't many jobs here, our state is just fine the way it is and doesn't need to be changed.
And that's what is so hilarious and somewhat sad about all of this. There are no jobs in New Hampshire right now, so there is really no "brain drain," and no reason to keep young people here instead of Boston or New York. Let them go have fun in the big city and then, they can move back here to raise families or escape the high taxes and crime [although the crime is creeping up here too].
And, if there are all these supposed jobs, there are tens of thousands of brains just waiting to be trained or retrained all over the place. The Dept. of Employment Security is reportedly going mad these days with all the jobless claims! I'm hearing that things are so crazy that they can't keep up with everyone's little check sheets to see if they are looking for work because, you know, there is no work!
But the problem is that the people who live here are not the "type" of people all the tinkerers want to stay in the state. They are, if you will, "regular folks," like me. We are essentially people who think for ourselves, guide our lives by commonsense, and like to be left alone, for the most part. The tinkerers want educated and enlightened folks who like dabble, tweak, and fiddle to their own liking, without a care in the world about who is affected by their crap. So, instead of raising all of us up to their standard, they promote shoving us aside, bringing in others, and having us live by all of their rules. Sorry, that's not why I'm interested in living here and that's not why I moved back here to raise a family after spending most of my adult life in New York and Boston screwing around!
So let the kids sew their oats elsewhere and then, escape all of that for our wonderful state where we can all breath relatively fresh air, not see our neighbors because there are trees in the way, and safely raise our children away from the crime, high taxes, and people who think we are beneath them, and all live happily ever after ...

Another heartbreaking part of the Eagle Times closing

WMUR-TV, which has been on this story from the beginning, has another report, talking to one of the employees who were let go: ["Mother Of 5 Laid Off From Eagle Times Shares Story"].
This is just heartbreaking, like many of the economic hardships people are going through right now.

Oh, and BTW, while we all suffer along here, note what the Fed chairman said recently ... this could be a jobless recovery!: ["Bernanke Sees Chance of Jobless Recovery"].

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Is 'pulling a Palin' the best they can do against Ayotte?

It seems to me that a lot of folks feel so threatened by New Hampshire Attorney General and Republican Kelly Ayotte running for U.S. Senate that they need to cheap shot her or cast aspersions right out of the box.
Just on background, I interviewed Ayotte a few times when I worked at a local news radio station and also helped her and the state police cut a anti-drunk driving PSA for stations across the state. Let me tell you, she is a completely competent, acceptable and accomplished candidate for the Republican nomination. And maybe that's why Democrats are so scared.
While we don't know her political positions, we soon will if she decides to run. At that point, we can all decide whether she earns our votes or not.
But if the best liberals and Democrats can do is say she's "pulling a Palin" or attack her because she is a relatively attractive candidate, a woman, who might have moderate and conservative positions, then it will not be a cakewalk for Rep. Paul Hodes. Or, will they start pulling the "bad mom horror stories," another covert op by Democrats which they should be ashamed of I can hear them now, Ayotte refused to allow an AGA to try a case while she was pregnant and put her baby in danger, gasp, horrors, blah, blah, blah ...
And another question for my super liberal friends: What happened to diversity and tolerance? You're going to choose a white man over a woman? Or, is there only diversity when the woman, black, or Hispanic, is liberal or a Democrat? Where is the tolerance for differing opinions and ideas or, do you take the position that there is only tolerance for me and not for thee? I have never understood this hypocrisy which is why I don't fall into the diversity or tolerance nonsense trap.

Frankly, I'm not even thinking about 2010 right now and I'm a political horse race kind of guy. Let me get through the municipal elections please! But I will say that I don't know it is such a good idea for any of the candidates to win by default or not have a primary challenge. It's important for the voters to have a chance to really look at the candidates and have an array of them to choose from, and not have coronations. I guess Hodes has really had the luck of the Irish since he had no primary opposition in 2004, minor opposition who was virtually ignored in 2006, no primary challenge in 2008, and now, seemingly no primary opposition for the nomination in 2010. But is that such a good thing?

When the time is right, I will weigh all the issues and make a decision just like everyone else. And I will write about the election before that time. But I think it's really important for the parties, the candidates, and their supporters, to stick to the important issues of the day and not all this crappy name-calling, 16 months before the damn election!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Oh, this is great ...

Duran Duran are playing Arcadia's "Election Day" on tour ... nice:



Yup, instead of checking work emails while drinking my morning coffee, I'm answering my facebook friends one of whom posted this great video ... work email can stew. I know that when I open it, there is just going to be a slew of spam in there anyway. Summer is slow ... Actually, there are a lot of recent DD videos on YouTube, from various shows around the country. It's amazing how an entire crowd can sing off-key. And the band sounds pretty good too. Good morning!

The Importance of Including Truth Emergency Inside the International Progressive Media Reform Movement

Guest Perspective by Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff

An international truth emergency, now in evidence, is the result of fraudulent elections, compromised 9/11 investigations, illegal preemptive wars, and continued top down corporate media propaganda across the spectrum on public issues. Glenn Beck recently was able to say on national Fox News television that 9/11 Truth people openly supported the shooting at the Holocaust Museum. Beck claimed that 9/11 truth proponents see James von Brunn as a “hero.” Beck’s statement is completely without factual merit and represents a hyperrealist slamming of a group already slanderously pre-labeled by the corporate media as “conspiracy theorists.”

Conspiracies tend to be actions by small groups of individuals rather than massive collective plots by entire governments. However, small groups can be dangerous, especially when the individuals have significant power in huge public and private bureaucracies. Corporate boards of directors meet in closed rooms to plan to how best to maximize profit. If they knowingly make plans that hurt others, violate laws, undermine ethics, or show favoritism to friends, they are involved in a conspiracy.

The main method of critics of unofficial investigations into 9/11, election fraud, and other controversial issues is to lump together all the questions and/or lines of inquiry as if they all have equal validity. Obviously, they do not. This, however, allows critics to dismiss fact-based, transparent inquiries into major problems with official explanations of these crucial matters by focusing on the most absurd claims only. These are fallacies of overgeneralization, straw persons, appeals to authority, and red herrings that provide distractions from actual fact-based, scientific investigations. These tactics avoid the debates about truth entirely. We the people must not be afraid to openly discuss, research, and validate these issues.

Here is a case in point: former Brigham Young University physics professor Dr. Steven E. Jones and some 700 scientific professionals in the fields of architecture, engineering, and physics have now concluded that the official explanation for the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) buildings is implausible according to laws of physics. Especially troubling is the collapse of WTC 7, a forty-seven-story building that was not hit by planes, yet dropped in its own “footprint” in 6.6 seconds in the same manner as a controlled demolition.

To support his theory, Jones and eight other scientists conducted chemical research on the dust from the World Trade centers. Their research results were published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal Open Chemical Physics Journal, Volume 2, 2009. The authors write, “We have discovered distinctive red/gray chips in all the samples. The properties of these chips were analyzed using optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy (XEDS), and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). The red portion of these chips is found to be an unreacted thermitic material and highly energetic.” Thermite is a pyrotechnic composition of a metal powder and a metal oxide, which produces an aluminothermic reaction known as a thermite reaction and is used in controlled demolitions of buildings. This should be a part of our political discourse given how much of the policy in the past eight years has been based on assumptions about 9/11.

These are some of the reasons we are in a truth emergency, which is predicated on the inability of many to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Corporate media, Fox in particular, offers “news” that creates a hyper-reality of real world problems and issues. Consumers of corporate news media — especially those whose understandings are framed primarily from that medium alone — are embedded in a state of excited delirium of knowinglessness. This lack of factual awareness of issues like election fraud in 2000 and 2004, and the increasing evidence of 9/11 Commission report inaccuracies, leaves people politically paralyzed.

To counter knowinglessness, media activists need to include truth emergency issues as important elements of radical-progressive media reform efforts. We must not be afraid of corporate media labeling and instead build truth from the bottom up. Critical thinking and fact-finding are the basis of democracy, and we must stand for the maximization of informed participatory democracy at the lowest possible level in society.

Progressive media activists should openly support 9/11 Truth and other truth emergency issues as important components of building a new non-exploitative world based on media democracy, full transparency and openness, and fundamental human rights.

Peter Phillips is Professor of Sociology, Sonoma State University; President, Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored; 9/11 Truth Steering Committee. Mickey Huff is Associate Professor of History, Diablo Valley College; Executive Committee, Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored; 9/11 Truth Advisory Committee.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Yikes: NSA power expands under Obama

Check this out:

Cahill a "socialist"? Sounds like it ...

For those of us who work in the media in Massachusetts or even just follow things there, for sport, the announcement by Treasurer Tim Cahill that he was leaving the Democrat Party and becoming an independent [or "unenrolled"] was a bit of a shocker.
However, here he is on "Keller at Large" this morning, calling himself a "socialist"! ["Keller @ Large"].
About seven minutes into the interview, Cahill says he doesn't know if he supports Cape Wind or not but does support wind power. Then he says this:
"I think where I differ from some of the in--, some of the other socialists, I would be open and, and potentially supportive of, of, uh, the death penalty in the state of Massachusetts ..."
Now, I think what Cahill meant to say was, I think where I differ from some of the other social liberals ... but, that's not what he said.
Later, in the conversation, he stated that considered himself a social moderate, saying that his religion made him uncomfortable with some positions. But he also said that he believed in the separation of church and state.
Of course, this is just a small bit of misspeak in an otherwise brilliant political move that had tongues wagging around the state last week. It's a big gamble by Cahill but probably his only chance to win the corner office - and set the state on the right track. And when you have nothing to lose, it's always better to go out with a bang ... standing by your principles.

More on the Eagle Times closing

The Union Leader has a pretty good story here about the demise of the Eagle Times newspaper by a former reporter and current UL correspondent: ["Claremont mourns loss of local voice"].
Interestingly, the owner said he couldn't subsidize the newspaper anymore. Well, that makes sense but it also makes me wonder a bit. Why were they hiring more people if things were so bad? Why were they closing titles instead of trying to sell them for at least something? This doesn't seem like good business to me. Everyone in the business is having to do more with less. I don't understand why they couldn't figure out a way to adapt. Could the Eagle Times be turned into a weekly or bi-weekly instead of a daily? A circ of 9,000 is pretty good but with so many employees, I can see where it might have been hard to make it work.
As daily newspapers go the way of the dodo, they do have options. Going to multiple editions a week or ending editions which are not popular are possibilities [I've written about this previously]. The Eagle Times didn't have a Saturday edition. Maybe it could have published Monday, Thursday, and Sunday, and done it with half the employees? I don't know. I'm just guessing. But it seems more than a little sad to close down a 175 year institution.

Update: The Monitor's great columnist Ray Duckler has a piece here about the shuttering of the newspaper: ["Paper vanishes; community reels"].

Saturday, July 11, 2009

For Mikey Dee fans ...

For those of you out there who were fans of the late, great Mikey Dee, Drugless Douglas reminds us that he has a ton of the live performances from "On the Town with Mikey Dee" up online: ["http://druglessdouglas.com/ott/old.html"].
I know Joel Simches, another fill-in and master band mixer, is planning a big anniversary show coming up and has asked people to submit clips. I have been trying to find something worthy of airplay to give him ...

Neglecting the blogs ...

Admittedly, I've been neglecting my Politizine and OurConcord Web sites, mostly due to work commitments, which have been pretty overwhelming lately.
A few weeks ago, the staff reporter I worked with took another job in the industry. We were all excited for her but it left a huge hole. Because I haven't had staff support, I have been putting in a lot more than the 45-plus hours per week I normally put into the job, in order to get everything done and maintain what I have always believed was my own personal work standard.
Frankly, it has not been easy trying to maintain the standard alone. In fact, it has been nearly impossible to continue to be one of the top home page poster of the 100-plus weeklies, produce video content, a weekly email alert, weekly poll, numerous blog posts, writing even more stories and editorials [one week it was seven and the next two weeks it was nine ...], and producing, granted, a small print edition. It gave me a broad, albeit short, view into the world of what it is like to be a single editor running an entire operation, trying to meet high journalistic standards while delivering what customers want and expect [thankfully, the reporter was replaced with another from within the company. But, shockingly 14 other newspapers in the unit I work in have no other staff support, just correspondents, and it's not bound to get better].
Needless to say, it's extremely difficult, even in a busy and active town where the stories just fall off the trees. So, you can understand why things might fall by the wayside, or, you would at least assume why some things might.
On top of this, I'm trying to spend more time at home so that my wife can devout more time to her freelance business, in order to make up the difference of a 7 percent corporate pay cut. As things get worse, and they probably will, who knows what will happen. And yet, the journalistic standard - personal, corporate, reader, whatever - remains, nearly impossible to fill in a 40-plus hour workweek.
As I have flipped back and forth between radio and newspapers numerous times during the last decade-plus, the threshold of what is expected from employees keeps changing. Consumers want more for less; management wants more for less, etc. Essentially, the finish line keeps being moved forward while management and owners fiddle with everything under the sun, unable to predict the future and in some cases, unable to make the smallest decision about what is best. Sometimes, they make extremely bad decisions. They are only human, after all. We all make mistakes. But shouldn't employees be honest about what they are feeling and shouldn't they have more of a role than just mopping up the mess and trying to make due? We're all in the boat together, right?
At some point, it just breaks. For many, it already has. I can count on four or five sets of hands the number of talented broadcasters and journalists who have left [or been driven out of] the business due to these factors when it simply didn't need to be this way. And yet, it didn't have to be this way. I know from my reading that there is really a difference between management and leadership and it is clear. It isn't easy to change from moving the chairs on the Titanic to making sure that everyone gets off the boat safely and soundly. Should employees be inspired and driven to reach new heights or driven and inspired to flee?
I don't claim to have all the answers. I know I don't. Everyone seems to be in the same pickle these days. But it clear is that something needs to be done to keep the news business alive while at the same time keeping quality employees engaged, activated, and feeling as if they have a role in the future - instead of fearing the future. There are other things too but I want to get on to enjoying my weekend ...
Back to the blogs. I don't know what the future holds for them frankly. As can happen, a couple of times a year, I begin to question and wonder what I'm doing with them and whether or not they are worth the time. I honestly don't know. I had a short conversation with a family member the other day and I realized in the course of that conversation that I am technically middle aged. At 44, I'm probably past what was once considered middle-aged [A Google search of "how old is middle age" revealed 96 million entries on the topic ... Wikipedia says that the U.S. Census lists middle age at 35-44 and 45-54 ... so, that's about right, correct?]
I keep coming back to the book ideas I'm never going to finish, the degree I never finished, the fact that I'm not learning much or growing from much that I'm doing. Sure, life is an education. Family always needs more, and that's fulfilling. But, I need more too and I don't quite know how to bring about that change that will allow me to grow personally and professionally.
I wonder, what are all of you doing out there? Do you think about these things? Do you prospect for the future or does it fall in your lap? Do you analyze the fork in the road or just take one route in the hope that if you make a mistake, you can turn around and drive back? Or, are you just doing whatever you can to get by? Let me know, I'm interested in having an online conversation about how other folks are handling everything that is going on in the world.

Real unemployment figures? Probably at least 10 million

Check out this interesting analysis from "the fringes," if you will ...: ["Unemployment Claims: How Bad are the "Real" Numbers?"].
I only say "the fringes" because this guy seems a bit out there not unlike Alex Jones and some of the other folks online who are telling people what seems to be the truth but they may not be all that trustworthy.
However, I like the way he has broken out the official numbers to present what looks like a true depression, in the sense that the unemployment numbers, even altered for population growth, are twice as bad as the 1982 and 1975 recessions! That means we're in a depression at this point folks, no doubt about it.
Again, like I said a few weeks ago, these numbers don't include the folks who have fallen off the rolls, who are only able to get part-time work or are unemployed, or anyone else who isn't working full-time but is not counted in the statistics. What does that mean? Well, it means that there are probably a lot more than 10 million people out of work right now.

Friday, July 10, 2009

More newspaper problems in NH

I almost took a job at this newspaper two and a half years ago ... and now, it's gone: ["Eagle Times Publisher Filing For Bankruptcy"].
This is one day when I realize that I made the right decision not taking a job. I really wonder about my decisions sometimes. At the same time, it was Tim Donnelly, the managing editor, who saw my resume online and called my house one day. I saw his number on the phone and said, "Who would be calling me from the Claremont Eagle Times?" We had a nice chat over the phone and I went up for the interview. The drive was a haul - about an hour and 20 minutes - and I was just wondering how bad it would be in the winter ... going north!
But the money wasn't bad and I was impressed with the small-time operation when I got there. Tim wore a dress shirt that was too small on him and a strange small necktie but I thought, "Well, a bit eccentric, no biggie ..." I was interviewed by him and the new editor who had just moved to New Hampshire from Chicago, which seemed a tad odd, but whatever. I thought the interview went pretty well and it seemed like they wanted me for the job.
Afterward, I took a short drive around Claremont and the back way home and realized that the region was a treasure trove of potential stories. I noticed a slew of independent businesses which seemed to be struggling which made me think that a series of features might be a good thing. There were run-down buildings all over the place. It got me wondering about poverty levels; code and zoning issues; how difficult is it to find housing in Claremont and surrounding communities; etc. I wondered, were my assumptions based incorrectly on what I saw ... which might not be the reality?
I pitched the ideas and a few more questions about responsibilities and other issues and, later, got a response from the editor that just took me back a little bit. Instead of being excited about the fact that one of his new reporters had already come up with a slew of new story ideas after being in the city for about an hour, he seemed discouraging. So I turned the job down and it was the right decision at the time.
Later, the owner of the Eagle Times and a slew of other weeklies closed down the Argus Champion, the newspaper of record for the Lake Sunapee area and surrounding communities. The newspaper was one of the oldest in the state, dating back 177 years. People were furious about the decision and the Concord Monitor published a few articles about the newspaper closing down. There was a rumor that the owner was interested in selling it. I attempted to find out if this was true but, it turned out, the owner was more interested in closing than selling ... I found that odd too. Hmm, close something down or get something for it ... weighing the options ... something vs. nothing ... he chose nothing.
Even more interesting is the fact that the Argus Champion was closed nearly a year ago. I wonder who is going to go next.

Annoyed with Gov. Lynch ...

For the first time, I'm actually annoyed with Gov. Lynch: ["Lynch Vetoes Medicinal Marijuana Bill"].
I can't believe he would veto this law. It is a simple thing that we can do for people who are very sick with cancer or AIDS. The plant, which God created, is much better for the body than all the chemical-based THC substitutes the pharma companies have come up with. No heart at all on this one. A big disappointment.

Practically On the Table

Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader
A few days ago, a citizen asked the progressive legislator from California, Congressman Henry Waxman why he took his name off the list of about Eighty House sponsors of single-payer health insurance? Mr. Waxman replied: “it [H.R. 676] isn’t going to happen.”

In early January and last year, Americans who believe in Presidential accountability for constitutional, statutory and treaty violations asked Democrats in Congress—“If not impeachment, why not at least a resolution of censure of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney?” The uniform reply was “It’s not practical.”

These lawmakers—Democrats all, who are the majority in Congress and who agree with these questioners—keep saying “It’s not going to happen” or “It’s not practical.”

“It’s just not practical” to provide a federal minimum wage equal to that in 1968, inflation adjusted, which would be $10 an hour.

“It’s not going to happen” to get comprehensive corporate reform at a time when a corporate crime wave and the Wall Street multi-trillion dollar collapse on Washington, on taxpayers and on the economy is tearing this country apart. A little regulatory tinkering is all citizens are told to expect.

“It’s just not practical” to give workers, consumers and taxpayers simple facilities for banding together in associations with their own voluntary dues to defend these interests in the corporate occupied territory known as Washington, D.C.

Last year, the excuse was a Bush veto. So the Democrats didn’t even try to advance reforms they believe in, knowing Bush and his Republican Party would stonewall. What’s the excuse this year with Obama in the White House?

After all, it was only a year and a half ago when nominating and then electing an African-American President was “not going to happen, was not practical.”

But since it did happen, why aren’t these and many other long overdue beneficial redirections and efficiencies happening for the American people? Why aren’t there rollbacks, at least, of the Bush-driven inequities and injustices that have so damaged the well-being of working people?

Why isn’t a simpler and more efficient carbon tax more “practical” than the complex corruption-prone, corporatized cap and trade deal driven by Goldman Sachs and favored by most Democrats? The avaricious tax cuts for the super-wealthy are still there.

The statutory ban on Uncle Sam negotiating volume discounts on medicines purchased by the federal government are still there. Taking the huge budgets for the Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan off their annual fast track, and putting them a meaningful House and Senate Appropriations Committee hearing process has not happened.

Face it, America. You are a corporate-controlled country with the symbols of democracy in the constitution and statutes just that—symbols of what the founding fathers believed or hoped would be reality.

Even when the global corporate giants come to Washington dripping with crime, greed, speculation and cover-ups, and demand gigantic bailouts on the backs of taxpayers and their children, neither the Republicans nor the now majority Democrats are willing to face them down.

The best of America started with our forebears who faced down those who told them “it’s not going to happen,” or “it’s not practical” to abolish slavery, give women the right to vote, elevate the conditions of workers and farmers, provide social security and medicare, make the air and water less polluted and so on. These pioneers, with grit and persistence, told their members of Congress and Presidents—“It is going to happen.”

To paraphrase the words of a great man, the late Reverend William Sloan Coffin, it is as if those legendary stalwarts from our past, knowing how much more there is to achieve a practical, just society, are calling out to us, the people today, and saying “get it done, get it done!”

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th!

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Ode to Perot

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
I’ve wondered often why people who go to “town meetings” held by campaigning politicians rarely ask fundamental questions.

Here is one that should have been asked of presidential candidate Barack Obama: “If you get to the White House, will you appoint to top positions Americans who have a track record of making the right decisions in their respective fields?”

“Of course, I will,” Obama would have undoubtedly replied.

Of course, he did not when it came to the collapse of the corrupt Wall Street casinos and the bailout of these gamblers by the American people. Obama chose the very Wall Streeters and Wall Street servants who were involved in, condoned, or profited from the speculative binges that led to the biggest government bailout scheme in world history. The President’s explanation is that he wants experienced people who know how Wall Street works. Yeah, right! In reality, he wanted political cover.

Something very important is missing when even people who are part of the ruling establishment are ignored, marginalized, or ridiculed even though their detailed, public warnings prove to be all too accurate.

Consider billionaire, Ross Perot. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, Ross, as everyone calls him, was right on General Motors, right on NAFTA trade, and right on the federal deficits.

In 1984, he joined the Board of Directors of GM after selling his successful company, EDS, to the auto giant. He could scarcely believe how stodgy, bureaucratic, and insensitive GM executives were in running the company. He tried to shake up the boys at the top to meet the fast-growing competition from Asia and Europe.

The GM brass couldn’t stand Ross “at large” probing up and down the company, so in 1986 they bought out his shares in return for him leaving the Board.

Two years later, reflecting on his experience at GM with a reporter from Fortune, Perot called the “General Motors system a blanket of fog that keeps people from doing what they know needs to be done.”

Warming up, Perot continued: “One day I made a speech to some senior executives. I said, ‘Okay, guys, I’m going to give you the whole code on what’s wrong. You don’t like your customers. You don’t like your dealers. You don’t like the people who make your cars. You don’t like your stockholders. And, to a large extent, you don’t like one another. For this company to win, we’re going to have to love our customers. We’re going to have to stop fretting about dealers who make too much money and hope they make $1 billion a year though us. The guys on the factory floor are the salt of the earth—not mad-dog, rabid, burn-the-plant-down radicals. And all this sniping at one another—the financial guys vs. the cars guys—is terribly destructive.’”

GM didn’t listen to Ross. Now, after a long, relentless slide, GM is bankrupt, abandoning their workers, two thousand of their dealers, and their customers’ grievances. Moreover, GM is into the U.S. taxpayer for over $70 billion.

Perot devoted much of his 1993 published book Save Your Job, Save Our Country to NAFTA and trade. Looking back, he was right most of the time. NAFTA cost more U.S. jobs than it created, generated a huge U.S. trade deficit with Mexico, and mainly benefited the “36 businessmen who own Mexico’s 39 largest conglomerates or over half of Mexico’s Gross National Product.”

The border-located maquiladora factories have high worker turnover and squeeze the laborers in often unsafe conditions for little pay.

Here is how Perot described the scene behind the boasting of Washington, DC, and corporations about the large increase in trade after NAFTA:
“Most of the goods produced in the maquiladoras are shipped into the U.S. market. Consequently, most of the so-called trade between the U.S. and Mexico is not trade as trade is commonly understood. Rather, it is primarily U.S. companies shipping their own machinery, components, and raw materials across the border into their Mexican factories and then shipping their finished or semi-finished goods back over the border into the U.S.”

A good deal of the U.S. auto industry went south after NAFTA, leaving workers and communities stranded in Michigan and other states. Bankrupt Chrysler is planning to move a modern, award-winning engine plant in Wisconsin to Mexico after receiving billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts.

On Perot’s nationally-televised deficit warnings (with charts), what more need be said? Even he did not envision what would pile up after his clarion calls. The burden on the next generation and the tax dollars diverted from our country’s needs to pay the interest on these trillions of dollars of debt were pointed out again and again nearly twenty years ago by the Texas entrepreneur. He even has a website (perotcharts.com) updating the red ink.

In Bush’s and Obama’s Washington, there is no room for Perot to gain visibility and recognition.

It is one thing for the Washington politicians to ignore prescient progressive commentators, like William Grieder, who have been prophetically right on. It is quite another escape from reality to turn their backs on leaders within the business establishment itself.

There are many like Perot who must be watching the day’s news and saying “we told you so, but you didn’t listen then and you are not listening now.”

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jobless rate reaches 9.5 percent

And, frankly, this is only the folks who are collecting: ["467K Jobs Cut In June; Jobless Rate At 9.5 Percent"].
At this point, all the people who have fallen off the rolls, because they have been out of work for more than a year, are no longer counted. I would bet that the un- and under-employment numbers are probably around 20 percent, maybe more.
I recall an article in the Boston Herald back in 1992 that had the real unemployment rate - which included people collecting, people out of work, people in part-time jobs who couldn't find full-time jobs - was around 30 percent. It was based on some study that was performed by some think tank. I don't remember exactly since it was so long ago. However, times were not as bad then as they are now. So, who knows what the number potentially is.

Not surprisingly ...

There is a flash flood warning for Hillsborough County. I can't just imagine how high the Merrimack is at this point ... the rain can end any time now ...