Saturday, October 30, 2010

Who I'm voting for ...

Here's the text from my letter in the Concord Monitor Friday. It pretty much says what' I'm going to do on Election Day.

Splitting tickets

After more than three decades of watching how government doesn't really work, many of us have come to the conclusion that the more divided it is the better things are. Bipartisan solutions, not one-party rule, will move the state and nation forward.

I don't agree with everything these candidates believe in, but they'll get my votes Tuesday:

First, Democratic Gov. John Lynch's steady leadership is needed to improve the economy during these unpredictable times.

Despite personally liking both major party candidates for U.S. Senate, I will ignore their mudslinging and vote for independent Chris Booth, a Constitutionalist who supports Medicare for all and alternative energy policies.

For Congress, Charlie Bass has already had his turn. Democrat Ann Kuster gets the nod.

After the debacle with the school board charter, our state senator, Sylvia Larsen, does not deserve re-election. Republican Chris Wood will serve us well, without collusion or backroom deals.

Concord Ward 5, 6 and 7 voters should send Democrat Rick Watrous and Republican Pam Ean to the Legislature. Watrous has worked tirelessly for us, supporting open, honest government. Ean, a school teacher, understands that the state must tackle spending first, before increasing taxes.

Most important, the following candidates for Concord School Board Charter Commission deserve your support: Laura Bonk, Charlie Russell, Kathy Conners, Jim Baer, John Stohrer and Chuck Douglas. These candidates will fix the charter and restore our rights as parents, so we can improve our school district.

TONY SCHINELLA
Concord

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Road to Corporate Serfdom

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
It was Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist, James Carville, who in 1992 created the election slogan: “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” For the 2010 Congressional campaigns, the slogan should have been: “It’s Corporate Crime and Control, Stupid.”

But notwithstanding the latest corporate crime wave, the devastating fallout on workers, investors and taxpayers from the greed and corruption of Wall Street, and the abandonment of American workers by U.S. corporations in favor of repressive regimes abroad, the Democrats have failed to focus voter anger on the corporate supremacists.

The giant corporate control of our country is so vast that people who call themselves anything politically—liberal, conservative, progressive, libertarian, independents or anarchist—should be banding together against the reckless Big Business steamroller.

Conservatives need to remember the sharply critical cautions against misbehaving or over-reaching businesses and commercialism by Adam Smith, Frederic Bastiat, Friedrich Hayek and other famous conservative intellectuals. All knew that the commercial instinct and drive know few boundaries to the relentless stomping or destruction of the basic civic values for any civilized society.

When eighty percent of the Americans polled believe ‘America is in decline,’ they are reflecting in part the decline of real household income and the shattered bargaining power of American workers up against global companies.

The U.S. won World War II. Germany lost and was devastated. Yet note this remarkable headline in the October 27th Washington Post: “A Bargain for BMW means jobs for 1,000 in S. Carolina: Workers line up for $15 an hour—half of what German counterparts make.”

The German plant is backed by South Carolina taxpayer subsidies and is not unionized. Newly hired workers at General Motors and Chrysler, recently bailed out by taxpayers, are paid $14 an hour before deductions. The auto companies used to be in the upper tier of high paying manufacturing jobs. Now the U.S. is a low-wage country compared to some countries in Western Europe and the trend here is continuing downward.

Workers in their fifties at the BMW plant, subsidizing their lower wages with their tax dollars, aren’t openly complaining, according to the Post. Not surprising, since the alternative in a falling economy is unemployment or a fast food job at $8 per hour.

It is not as if we weren’t forewarned by our illustrious political forebears Fasten your seat belts; here are some examples:

Thomas Jefferson—“I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

Abraham Lincoln in 1864—“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. …corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.” (1864)

Theodore Roosevelt—“The citizens of the United States must control the mighty commercial forces which they themselves call into being.”

Woodrow Wilson—“Big business is not dangerous because it is big, but because its bigness is an unwholesome inflation created by privileges and exemptions which it ought not to enjoy.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt—“The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”

Dwight Eisenhower, farewell address—“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

And, lastly, a literary insight:

Theodore Dreiser—“The government has ceased to function, the corporations are the government.”

Are you, dear reader, the same now as you were when you began reading this column?

Monday, October 25, 2010

November 2010 Top 30 Chart

Reporting: 13 different radio stations and Internet programs

1. The Hush Now – Shiver Me Starships
2. Deer Tick – The Black Dirt Sessions
3. Ad Frank & the Fast Easy Women – Your Secrets Are Mine Now
4. The Lights Out – Rock Pony EP
5. Streight Angular – Alright EP
6. Winterpills – Tuxedo of Ashes EP
7. Bearstronaut – “Shannon”
8. Juliana Hatfield – Peace & Love
9. Spirit Kid – Spirit Kid
10. Viva Viva – Viva Viva
11. Endless Wave – City Walls EP
12. Eli “Paperboy” Reed – Come and Get It
13. Freezepop – Imaginary Friends
14. Marc Pinansky – As A Child EP
15. The Wandas – New Wave Blues
16. Leo Blais – The Free EP
17. Bleu – Four
18. Hallelujah the Hills – Collective Psychosis Begone
19. The Holey Moleys – Cheese is Christ EP
20. Kingsley Flood – Dust Windows
21. Mean Creek – “The Comedian”
22. Pernice Brothers – Goodbye, Killer
23. John Shade – All You Love is Need
24. Wicked Whiskey – Under the Gun
25. The Luxury – In the Wake of What Won’t Change
26. Bon Savants – “Tidal Waves”
27. Ketman – Ketman A Go-Go
28. Oranjuly – Oranjuly
29. The Weisstronauts – Weisstronauts In Memphis
30. Gene Dante & The Future Starlets – “The Love Letter Is Dead”

Sunday, October 24, 2010

10 Questions for Tea Partiers

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
Here are ten Questions for Tea Partiers that they want or do not want to answer. I say it this way because people who call themselves Tea Partiers do not have the same view of politics, government, Big Business or the Constitution. Their opinions range from pure Libertarian to actively furthering the privileges of plutocracy. Their income and occupational background vary as well, though most seem to be middle-income and up.

My guess is that most Tea Partiers come from the conservative wing of the Republican Party who are fed up with both the corporate Republicans like Bush and Cheney, as well as the Democrats like Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi.

With the above in mind, the following questions can serve to go beyond abstractions and generalizations of indignation and get to some more specific responses.

1. Can you be against Big Government and not press for reductions in the vast military budgets, fraught with bureaucratic and large contractors’ waste, fraud and abuse? Military spending now takes up half of the federal government’s operating budgets. The libertarian Cato Institute believes that to cut deficits, we have to also cut the defense budget.

2. Can you believe in the free market and not condemn hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate welfare-bailouts, subsidies, handouts, and giveaways?

3. Can you want to preserve the legitimate sovereignty of our country and not reject the trade agreements known as NAFTA and GATT (The World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland) that scholars have described as the greatest surrender of local, state and national sovereignty in our history?

4. Can you be for law and order and not support a bigger and faster crackdown on the corporate crime wave, that needs more prosecutors and larger enforcement budgets to stop the stealing of taxpayers and consumer dollars so widely reported in the Wall Street Journal and Business Week? Law enforcement officials estimate that for every dollar for prosecution, seventeen to twenty dollars are returned.

5. Can you be against invasions of privacy by government and business without rejecting the provisions of the Patriot Act that leave you defenseless to constant unlawful snooping, appropriation of personal information and even search of your home without notification until 72 hours later?

6. Can you be against regulation of serious medical malpractice (over 100,000 lives lost a year, according to a study by Harvard physicians), unsafe drugs that have serious side effects or cause the very injury/illness they were sold to prevent, motor vehicles with defective brakes, tires and throttles, contaminated food from China, Mexico and domestic processors?

7. Can you keep calling for Freedom and yet tolerate control of your credit and other economic rights by hidden and arbitrary credit ratings and credit scores? What Freedom do you have when you have to sign industry-wide fine print one-sided “contracts” with your banks, insurance companies, car dealers, and credit card companies? Many of these contracts even block your Constitutional access to the courthouse.

8. Can you be for a new, clean system of politics and elections and still accept the Republican and Democratic Two Party dictatorship that is propped up by complex state laws, frivolous litigation and harassment to exclude from the ballot third parties and independent candidates who want reform, accountability, and stronger voices for the voters?

9. If you want a return to our Constitution—its principles of limited and separation of power and its emphasis on “We the People” in its preamble—can you still support Washington’s wars that have not been declared by Congress (Article I Section 8) or giving corporations equal rights with humans plus special privileges and immunities. The word “corporation” or “company” never appears in the Constitution. How can you support eminent domain powers given by governments to corporations over homeowners, or massive week-end bailouts by the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department of businesses, even reckless foreign banks, without receiving the authority and the appropriations from the Congress, as the Constitution requires?

10. You want less taxation and lower deficits. How can you succeed unless you stop big corporations from escaping their fair share of taxes by manipulating foreign jurisdictions against our tax laws, for example, or by letting trillions of dollars of speculation on Wall Street go without any sales tax, while you pay six, seven or eight percent sales tax on the necessities you buy in stores?

Let’s hear from you Tea Partiers. Meanwhile, see the work of video-journalist, Steve Ference, who has interviewed and given voice to those among you in his new paperback “Voices of the Tea Party” published by Lulu.com on July 4, 2010. Contact VoicesoftheTeaParty@gmail.com.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

How Sprint lost my business

This weekend, Sprint lost my business.
I have been with the company, in one form or another, for the better part of 10 years. It started back in 1997 when I got my first cellphone from Omnipoint at a little bodego in Jamaica Plain that was run by a Spanish DJ I knew at WUNR where I worked at the time. Omnipoint was later acquired by Nextel, which was later acquired by Sprint.
With the exception of a break for a couple of years in the mid-2000s, when I had Earthlink, I have been with the same company.
During the last seven years, I have had some form of smartphone: First an analog Treo, then a Motorola Q9, which was great, and then three Q9Cs, which were a disaster. Every few months, the buttons stopped illuminating and the battery would start acting strange. After two replacements, I was unable to get any more replacements since the warranty ran out. The last time was two weeks after the warranty ran out. If I'm in the car at night, I can't dial the phone, because the buttons don't illuminate. The other day, the battery, which normally lasts about three days without a charge, just died in the middle of the day.
I don't fault Sprint for this - the product was faulty. But they sold me the faulty product in the first place. They should have at least offered me some kind of inexpensive exchange.
So, I've been waiting until my renewal came up to get something new.
Sprint actually has the least expensive phone service (before they changed their plans). Because I had been with the company for a while, I had an older plan: $59 for two phones, a $15 data plan for one of the phones, and a third phone for $10. Total cost, before taxes, was about $85 [with taxes pushing it up to $100].
However, a couple of months ago, Sprint switched their plans around and when I went to look at getting another smartphone, our bill for the three phones would jump to $150 a month [plus taxes]. I was shocked and thought, This can't be right.
So, I visited the Sprint store and, sure enough, if I wanted to get even a new, simple smartphone, like a Blackberry or something [no more Motorolas, thanks], it was going to double my bill. Plus, I was going to need to pay about $50 to $150 to get into an inexpensive smartphone. I talked to an online salesperson and the gave me the same pitch. I even went to Best Buy and it was the same with them.
Even though my wife wasn't using data on her phone, I had to pay for it on her phone anyway if I wanted data on my new phone. I kept telling them, I only need data for one, why can't you leave my bill where it is? Sorry, this is the way we're doing things now. Great.
None of the other plans offered anything cheaper with three phones either, especially if only one had data. I quickly came to the conclusion that we were going to have to go down to two phones.
I then looked into a pay-as-you-go service and that was pretty reasonable. But, if I wanted all three phones, it was going to get me up over what I was paying, plus $250 for a new Blackberry, and another $100 for two new basic phones. There would be more minutes, but no free ones at night. That didn't work work either. It looked like I was going to be stuck.
I looked at all the reviews of the non-smartphone upgrade options with Sprint and none had a calendar service that I needed and most were geared towards kids texting [can you see me with a pink sparkle phone? No thanks]. Also, the online reviews varied with some folks saying they hated the phones and others saying they were fine. Did I want to risk it?
My wife, who is a Mac person, had been talking about getting an iPhone. Not because she needed it, but because the commercials looked cool and she thought it might be fun to have one. Her sister and brother-in-law have them too and they love them [they have an iPad too, which is pretty cool, BTW].
On a whim, I looked into them at Best Buy and was impressed. They have all kinds of features and apps, are super fast, and colorful. Wow.
I realized that the ATT plan would actually only be a bit more than my original plan [$99 plus tax]. I also got free 18-month financing for the iPhones and 30 percent off accessories [spend some money, help the economy in China, etc.]. And the money I saved not going with Sprint's plan will pay for the iPhones during the next two years, which isn't bad either.
When I got them home, we were both super impressed with them. Not only that, but ATT's service is three to four bars here instead of Sprint's one to two bars. Meaning the signal is better too.
So, I guess, even though I'm spending a bit more money, I owe a big thank you to Sprint for not listening to me, the customer. I have better phones with better signals and all kinds of cool gadgets. Thanks, Sprint!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hot story over at OurConcord.com

I want to point all my regular Politizine readers to this pretty hot story I have over at my other site, OurConcord.com: ["NH AG: Concord attorney broke lobbying law"].

Warning: Always read the fine print ...

Recently, I've been considering whether or not to buy a new car. I've been doing research, looking at cars, checking out flyers, and seeing what's out there. The usual.
Last week though, I came across an interesting trick presented by two Kia dealerships, AutoServ in Concord and Bonneville in Manch. Both dealers have advertised pretty low prices for cars in the Hippo (Bonneville had a display ad; AutoServ a multi-page circular). The AutoServ flyer had an asterisk next to the "buy for" price. When you look up the disclaimer, it says that all "buy for" prices on new vehicles include a "20% of MSRP" down payment. On the used vehicles, it's $3,000. So, the "buy for" price isn't really a "buy for" price at all. It's "buy for" plus thousands more.
This is so close to bait and switch it isn't even funny. Imagine the surprise of someone going into the dealership to look at a 2010 Dodge Challenger for $14K only to find out that it is $17K or more! But, it's not really "bait and switch" - because, yes, there is a very small asterisk and yes, there is very small fine print telling potential shoppers that they will actually be paying more than the BIG NUMBER price listed in the circular.
The Bonneville ad also has a disclaimer, noting that all lease and purchase prices include a $2,999 down payment. So, that 2010 Kia Optima isn't really $11,900 ... it's $14,899.
There really ought to be a law against these kinds of tricks. Since there isn't, consumers, as I have said before, should just ignore the tricks that are out there in flyers and television commercials. Simply decide on the vehicle you want, go to Edmunds.com and look up the invoice price, and ask the dealer to get as close to that as possible. With so many car choices out there, it can be a little hard making a decision. But a little protection from the tricks can take you a lot way.