Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy b-day Politizine ...

It's been 11 years. Wow. I haven't done many posts because I've been busy with other things. Life happens. However, I appreciate the fact that many of you still visit, check out past posts, and even leave comments. Thank you to everyone. :-)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

RIP: Lou Reed ...

One of the most influential musicians of all time, Lou Reed, has passed away, according to Rolling Stone.
I think I'll put together a tribute show this week on WNHN at 9 p.m. on Wednesday but an hour can't possibly do his output justice.There are so many songs and they mean so much to so many people, including me. He really helped me through some rough times. I could always put it on and be taken somewhere else, even for a short time.
When I heard the news a little bit ago, I came upstairs to listen to some of the tunes. I also thought about all the songs I've covered by Reed and the Velvets over the years, so many great songs ...
"Temptation Inside Your Heart" with Lovers & Other Monsters (LVRS) and my brother singing with us at Thum's in Concord in 1993, a few months before he passed away.
When I was in this band Jet Velvet, we used to play a sloppy, bombastic version of "White Light/White Heat" (we had a female vocalist, so it was a bit different).
Joel Simches and I did "Ocean" at the Middle East one night just the two of us - me singing and strumming acoustic guitar and him on synths - it was simply amazing. I remember that one like it was yesterday, the crowd sitting in silence listening to us play it.
"Heroin" at the Jerry Brown fundraiser at the Middle East in 1992 with LVRS and members of Womb to Tomb, Curious Ritual, and others jumping up on stage with us for a monstrous extended version of the song that seemed to go on forever. Good times, indeed.
When I "retired" from playing out, I would still play Reed/Velvets tunes.
"I Love You Suzanne" was one I would play for my son when he was little, changing Suzanne to his name, while he would dance around the kitchen. I was just playing "Vicious" the other day on the acoustic; I've had "vicious, you hit me with a flower, you do it every hour, you're so vicious" swirling in my head for days. OMW, "Sweet Jane," "Rock 'n' Roll," "Who Loves the Sun," "Pale Blue  Eyes," some of my favorite songs to sit and strum and hum ... tons of fun ... these are just the songs I liked to play, never mind the ones I liked to listen to.
I can't stop weeping. What a effin' drag. RIP Lou. Thank you for everything.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

You can't be first all the time

The New Hampshire Press Association Better Media Awards were held last night and Patch took three of them out of 86 potential slots in the daily and special categories.
Of the three, I won in the Champion of Right-to-Know category, for my series of stories on how former Concord School Board member Jack Dunn was hired to be the district's business administrator, and the Concord NH Patch site, which I edit and manage, also won second place this year in the Best Website category.
I've lost track of how many awards I've won at this point
but the wall is beginning to get a little crowded ...
Patch in New Hampshire won three last year, including Best Website for Concord, social media in Portsmouth, and Merrimack for a video, all first place prizes.
I know that the Patch team put together a ton of excellent work this year and submitted a lot of entries - a lot more than last year, probably around 40 or 50 - and it was disappointing that more of that work wasn't acknowledged by the judges.
This is one of the burdens of being online only - print is still at the forefront of people's minds (especially those who work in the print industry), with cool layouts and big pictures, something that online news orgs haven't figured out how to replicate yet (which is understandable, since all content management systems have a standard template to work from).
Last night, at the awards ceremony, I got to thinking about it again, since the lopsidedness was so prevalent. Watching a handful of people win a slew of awards because there seemed to be so little competition in the categories was great for them. But what about the other journalists doing high caliber work? I mean, it's great to win anything at all. But if you're going to hold a race, shouldn't all the participants be competitors in the same class?
Imagine for a second that there was a 100 meter dash with six racers - five were 10-years-old and one was 20-years-old. The 20-year-old would, obviously, trounce the kids, every single time. This might be an odd analogy for some - reporters for news orgs aren't 10. But it's kind of the same when a daily news website in a small town is competing against a daily news website in a big city or a daily print newspaper in a big city with an active website. Get what I mean? It really shouldn't be competing against a big city - it should be competing about its equal, a weekly newspaper. They are in different content classes. Of course the bigger locations are going to have access to better staffing and potentially, staffers, as well as more opportune moments to write stories and take dramatic pictures.
At the New England Newspaper and Press Association, formerly the New England Press Association, the annual contest categories, linked here from 2012, are in tiers, based on weekly and daily circ - Daily Class 2 is 30,000 or more; Daily Class 1 is 30,000 or less. Weeklies run in classes that are 6,000 less or more; there is also the bi-weekly and monthly categories (In 2011, I won or co-won five awards).
Now, for NENPA, online news outlets like Patch and GoLocal are not allowed to compete because it's a "better newspaper" contest not a "better media" contest. That should probably change too, especially because online news has grown so much in Massachusetts, where most of the NENPA newspapers are from, and around New England. But you would never see, in the NENPA contest, a city daily competing against a small town weekly. It wouldn't happen. And it shouldn't happen with online news outlets either.
Absent circ numbers, unique view audience classes could be matched up with circ similar to what is done at NENPA. Or, the population of the main community served by the website could be used as a tier instead of weekly or daily. This would allow news outlets that compete in smaller communities to actually have a fighting chance at competing for awards, without the hidden and obvious bias of the way that news is delivered to readers built into the acknowledgment of excellence process.
Personally, I'm always happy to win anything, first, second, or third, it doesn't matter. A co-worker joked to me that he didn't think they would give us first place two years in a row. Frankly, it's not a huge thing; second is fine. But I hope that some changes in the structure of the awards can be considered in the future so that all the great work of my colleagues can be awarded too.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Some quick comments about the 2013 debt ceiling, federal budget issues

When looking at the 2013 debt ceiling debate (as well as the 2011 one too), as well as federal budget issues in general, it's important to remember a few things.
First, most modern presidents have raised the debt ceiling and fought with Congress about it too. But, that doesn't - or didn't - make it right. In fact, actually, it makes it wrong, especially where there are MANY things that could be done to solve the deficit and debt problems, as I have written and talked about for decades now.
Second, when watching all the bemoaning about the Republicans in Congress, etc., it's also important to remember that in 2006, when then-Sen. Obama, a Democrat, didn't support the policies of then-President Bush, a Republican, he also voted against the debt ceiling.
Here's a quote from his comments at the time:
"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better." 
Sound familiar? Yup, that's what the Republicans in Congress are saying right now, while opposing the Democratic president.
So, to all my political friends, if you believe that the Republicans in Congress are WRONG now, so was Sen. Obama then; if you believe Sen. Obama was correct in 2006, to take a stand and vote against the debt ceiling on principle, then what the Republicans are doing now is correct as well.

It's also important to add that instead of showing symbolic action by just speaking against the debt ceiling and voting, the Republicans in Congress are actually trying to 1) negotiate spending cuts in order to fix what they believe are major problems, and 2) cut spending so that the debt ceiling increase isn't needed.
The American people, from all walks of life, may not agree with what the Republicans are proposing to be cut (I certainly don't support everything they are proposing); but at least they are proposing something.
It's a far cry from Obama in 2006, or when he became a presidential candidate in 2007, or when he campaigned in 2008, or even after he became the president-elect and said the following:
"We cannot sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness, or exist solely because of the power of a politicians, lobbyists, or interest groups. We simply cannot afford it. This isn’t about big government or small government. It’s about building a smarter government that focuses on what works. That is why I will ask my new team to think anew and act anew to meet our new challenges.... We will go through our federal budget – page by page, line by line – eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way." 
That was four years, 10 months, and five days ago. How much longer do we all have to wait for the president to fulfill his promises of proposing "smarter" government while going "line by line" to eliminate wasteful government spending that we don't need and shouldn't have to pay for?

As a reminder, three years ago, the New York Times posted this interactive budget puzzle. You too can solve the federal budget problems in about 15 minutes. And this doesn't include all kinds of other ideas like bringing back tariffs, a transaction tax on Wall Street trading, etc.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

'Pay no attention to that (policy) behind the curtain ...'

An amazing economic story here ... see anything missing? "U.S. disability rolls swell in a rough economy" ...
Yup, not a peep about globalization or the fact that the free trade deals approved by both Democrats and Republicans in the early-to-mid-1990s have put our nation in a race to the bottom for wages.
It's great to do these stories and kudos to Fletcher and The Washington Post for sending a journalist to Maine to eye this issue. But if you don't look at the root cause of the reasons for why things are happening, then you are doing a disservice to everyone.
Check out this section of the story:
Benefits are hardly generous. They average $1,130 a month, and recipients are eligible for Medicare after two years. But with workers without a high school diploma earning a median wage of $471 per week, disability benefits are increasingly attractive for the large share of American workers who have seen both their pay and job options constricted.
So "disability" benefits are now better than some work even though it isn't that generous. That's nearly $13,500 a year, tax free, as well as other benefits since this is just above the poverty level. This is an average, BTW, meaning it could be more and could be less too.
Why post this, you might ask?
I'm in the process of digitizing (transferring audio from cassette to mp3) many of my old radio programs, music, local bands, records, and things like that in an effort to clear out my office while at the same time holding onto as much audio as I can. It runs in real time and I often let it roll in the background while I'm working or doing other things.
What's been so astounding about this process is the countless hours I spent talking about the trade deals and globalization with a myriad of experts during the 1990s (first broadcasting on the air in 1993 and off and on throughout the last 20 years).
One of the themes I struck at over and over again was the fact that the government would be brought to a point where if it eliminated tariffs (import taxes), we, the taxpayers, would be paying much more through taxes via various forms of welfare benefits. Program after program after program, I hammered away at the same thing - NAFTA, WTO/GATT, PMFN to China, etc. - would eliminate low skill, decent wage work and would put Americans who are in those jobs in direct competition with overseas workers who will do the job for pennies on the dollar.
Twenty years later, we've arrived (emphasis mine):
The fast expansion of disability here is part of a national trend that has seen the number of former workers receiving benefits soar from just over 5 million to 8.8 million between 2000 and 2012. An additional 2.1 million dependent children and spouses also receive benefits.The crush of new recipients is putting unsustainable financial pressure on the program. Federal officials project that the program will exhaust its trust fund by 201620 years before the trust fund that supports Social Security’s old-age benefits is projected to run dry.
Instead of that guy working at a plant in the article, making paper, you know, something important, he's riding his Harley around and we're giving him money to do it. He and millions more like him.
Now don't get me wrong - it's not an easy life to be on the fringes like this but which is better, people working productively in factories or the taxpayers footing the bill for people, essentially, hanging around? Yes, people working is better.
How bad is it? It's so bad, we're exporting the apples en masse to China, they create the juice there, and then ship it back here! Don't believe me? Read the label on the back of a $1 bottle of concentrated juice at Market Basket. The country moves the wood there too, they make furniture and paper and everything else, and then ship it all back here for sale. Over and over and over again, on every level of the economy.
And what about the climate change issues? Ships don't run on solar panels; they run on fossil fuels! Al Gore and others never talk about globalization's role in the climate crisis. As we've expanded globalization in the last 20 years, natural resources have been shipped out while goods have been shipped back in. That transportation has added all kinds of pollution to the planet that didn't exist before the 1980s. Instead, they continue to embrace free trade while not saying word one about the carbon footprint of such policies.
This isn't a "Tony pats himself on the back for predicting the future" post. I just saw this article and while thinking about all the programs I'm digitizing, I went, "Wow," in my head. I'm simply stunned that it's all come true, just like I predicted it would about 20 years ago. And in less than a generation, Social Security is going to be brought to the brink and folks like me aren't probably going to get a dime of what we've paid into the system - meaning taxes are going to go up.
So, what is everyone going to do about it?
The solutions are pretty simple - get out of the trade deals, bring the tariffs back, turn the country's business and economic focus onto localism and micro and not globalism and militarism. But at this point, it will never happen unless catastrophe, of some sort, occurs.

Tonight's moon ...

Here's another shot, this time using the tripod. Much better detail. Here's also a quick video clip.



















Monday, September 2, 2013

Looking to sell used CDs and LPs ...

Got an idea of where I can sell stuff? I'm looking to sell a bunch of used CDs and some leftover LPs, after I get done digitizing everything. Let me know if you have any ideas of where I can sell my CDs. Has anyone used MusicStack.com for some of your rare stuff?

Monday, August 26, 2013

A ship on the Seven Seas ...

Back in the day, when I was a kid, a trip to the beach meant my father making some amazing boats out of things that would wash up onto shore ... Styrofoam cooler pieces, fishing line, random sticks or wood ... anything he could get his hands on.
One year, he actually made a pretty decent boat out of an empty can of Cheez Whiz, sticks, and string. Seriously.
Over the weekend, I made my first attempt at creating a boat from a small piece of wood, some sticks, rope, and a plastic lunch bag.
One of my children named the boat "Saily." And yes, Saily did actually sail! The rocks are "passengers."
The first time out, a big wave from the high tide coming in at Salisbury Beach crashed it over. I then grabbed the boat, fixed the plastic sail, and launched it again, only this time, a bit deeper into the ocean.
However, my kids didn't want it to sail away, so after a bit of time, I went back out into the ocean and got it out. Not bad for a first try. :-)
There are more photos after on the other page.



Friday, July 5, 2013

The Killing Moon, live ...

The other night, my dad and I played five songs at the open mic night at The Draft. Here's one of the songs, "The Killing Moon," by Echo & the Bunnymen.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qtv-XvtsOn8

I'll post some more songs later. :-)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gettysburg ...

I finally got to go check out the memorial. It was an amazing experience.

Here's a short video clip of the Soldiers' Monument and some pictures.




Two views of the Gettysburg Address ... the address itself and criticism of the words and the event ... and we think today's media is bad? 




Above is a picture of the Cyclorama display, an amazing, massive one piece painting that is hung up in a rotunda. The painting depicts one of the battles from the artist's perspective. This photo doesn't do it justice, since it is only one small section of the painting and model display at the bottom, where I was standing. The painting was done in France based on what the artist saw during the battle. Pictures and slides were also taken and used to recreate the scene. The painting was sent to the United States in the 1880s and was restored a number of years ago. The museum has added light accents, sound, and narrative to the presentation to put you into the actual battle. No flash photos - understandable - or video  (bummer dude) were allowed. It's like nothing else you'll ever see. 


The New Hampshire stone at the Soldiers' Monument. A view from the top of Cemetery Hill, one of the skirmishes from the northeast side of town. It was also the scene of the first Confederate win of the three-day battle.


OK, so you think the 2000 election was bad? This is the Electoral College map of the 1860 election with four candidates facing off. Two of the candidates were pro-slavery; one was neutral. Lincoln and the Republicans didn't want slavery expanded to the other territories (the beige area between California and the other states). Lincoln received less than 40 percent of the popular vote but won 59 percent of the Electoral College vote and the election. Had there been no Electoral College and had the pro-slave political side of the aisle not split their vote with two candidates, Lincoln would have lost the election and we probably would not have the nation we have today. While many people believe the Electoral College is undemocratic, the Founders, quite brilliantly, put the mechanism in to keep mob rule from controlling the presidency and keeping the country from becoming a monarchy. It still serves its purpose today, despite what some people may think. 


The view from Little Round Top, a strategic point of the town that was almost lost by the Union forces, quite by accident. One of the generals, disobeying orders, believed he should be posted down on the ground to the right of the picture even though he was told to be up where the rocks are. A Union scout was sent up to the rocks to check on things, saw that there were no troops there while Confederate soldiers were off in the distance on the left of the picture, heading to the top. Troops were quickly assembled to hold the hill a few minutes before Confederates arrived. Historians believe that this was one of the key moments of the three days. Had the Confederates controlled the hill, they would have been able to bombard Union troops on the right and traveled south into town, taking control a small chunk Pennsylvania while winning the psychological war Lee was trying to fight against the Union states.


This picture is a bit blurry because I took it from the bus but the children are reenacting Pickett's Charge, the last and bloodiest battles of the three days. Over to the right, off the picture, is where Little Round Top is located; the center of the picture, just to the right of where all those houses are, is where Lee made his last - and unsuccessful - run at the Union forces. The Union cannons had stopped firing because the entire field was covering in smoke. Lee believed - like every other battle before this one - that the Union forces were retreating. In actuality, Meade and his forces were playing possum, waiting for the Confederates to charge, getting close enough to bombard them with more cannon fire.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cool chart in USA Today

While I am completely immersed in local, online news, one thing I still think is cool about print is a chart like this.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Linger on, your pale blue eyes ...

One of my favorite Lou Reed/Velvets songs. A nice version here with Pete Townsend. Lyrics are on the second page: 


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Taste the Floor returns ...

So, it's been a while.
In fact, almost 10 years. But I'm back spinning tunes on the radio.
The details can be seen at the Taste the Floor music show website.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Art auction

After nearly 30 years of not using them, I picked up a set of paintbrushes and put together this painting for the Intown Concord auction/general meeting coming up on March 14. If you don't recognize it, it's Penacook Lake, as seen from the peak of Jerry Hill at Marjory Swope Park.
The night I finished it - with other "celebrity" painters - I didn't think it came out that good. However, after looking at it for a bit, I realized that, considering, it's not bad at all.
My high school art teacher - the late Judy Marz - would be pretty proud, I think.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

You too can Dead Yourself

If you watch "The Walking Dead," you'll want to check this out ... Yes, you too can become a walker with the click of a button and a bit of shifting around of the mouse.
Well worth it, I think. Me as a zombie. LOL

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The 45% tax rate and $205B in giveaways

Sometimes, it takes a WSJ editorial to walk you through something and the indie press nosing around in order to understand how good or bad legislation is.
This morning's editorial states that the highest tax rate on those making $450,000 a year will be in the 45 percent range, higher than most people think. That's because of the ObamaCare surcharge kicking in as well as other things. Also, 80 percent of deductions and exemptions are ending for millionaires, according to the editorial, due to the phaseout of Personal Exemption Phaseout and the Limitation on Itemized Deductions (PEP/PEASE). 
So while not truly completely "making millionaires and billionaires pay a little more," there is a bit of good news here about making them pay a little more, if that is what your focus is. The fact remains that the deficit and debt are such massive problems, everyone is going to need to pay more while cutting all federal spending drastically. 
The problem though then becomes that, like I wrote before, the cuts haven't materialized, and the giveaways added to the deal are unfathomable and unconscionable 
Matt Stoller over at informationclearinghouse.com has an overview of some of the billions in giveaways that have been extended by the fiscal cliff agreement. These are some of the same things that Democrats have historically wanted to end but would blame the GOP for standing in the way. Corporate welfare, you know. These are some of the tax changes we all have to support in order to truly fix the revenue problems. It's truly "paying your fair share." Why should you or I pay more while Disney and Goldman Sachs get away with paying less? Now, again, both parties are truly to blame, when you look at the fine print. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The joke that was the fiscal cliff vote

Washington didn't "fix" anything: They made things worse.
The fiscal cliff/sequestration deal that was approved on Jan. 1, added more deficits and debt to the federal budget that anyone could have imagined while raising taxes and allowing other tax breaks to expire. And again, both political parties are to blame for this disaster. 
This entire mess was supposed to be about reducing deficits and eventually, debt, not adding to it. The deal raised taxes on those making more than $450,000, so the president got part of what he wanted and the GOP was able to protect households on the upper level - folks who make more than most of us but in a lot of cases are not millionaires. 
At the same time, the president and Senate Democrats loaded the thing up with more spending including changes to the AMT, business tax breaks for rum producers and Hollywood, unemployment benefits, and other giveaways. The CBO reports that the votes just taken add $3.9 trillion in deficits to the $9+ trillion expected during the next decade, for a grand total of more than $13 trillion in deficits by 2023, approximately. 
Since the debt will soon be at $17 trillion, the federal government will be at $30 trillion in debt in just 10 years, assuming nothing is done to offset those debt levels. This amounts to about $100,000 in federal government debt for everyone man, woman, and child who is a citizen living in the United States right now. These numbers don't include entitlement and pension obligations that are expected to be in the $90 trillion range very soon. 
And let's be clear - none of these actions will create any new jobs because, as I've written before a number of times, the long-term job problems aren't about more federal government spending, more education spending, or anything else. The federal government is spending more than ever before, in actual dollars. The long-term unemployment problem is about globalization, free trade, and to a lesser extent, technological advances that have increased worker productivity. It's not about "making millionaires and billionaires pay a little more" - it's about you needing to make $30K a year to get by while people in China and India will do the same job for $1K a year in corporate costs. 
Well, the Democrats got what they wanted and most of the GOP went along with it. You'll see, it won't work ... and things are going to get worse.  

The future
In two months, all parties are expected to sit down and start ironing out potential spending cuts. And the entire nasty nonsense-go-round will start again, keeping everyone in perpetual campaign mode. 
The Democrats say they have $1 trillion in cuts over 10 years on the table but that is a drop in the bucket when staring at now $13 trillion in deficits and $30 trillion in debt. At the same time, the GOP wants spending cuts but aims a lot of them at the elderly and the poor. The "spending cuts" proposed by Democrats aren't cuts at all; they are reductions in the level of potential increases, meaning it's mostly word play; the GOP won't touch their blessed military spending even though Japan and NATO have no known enemies and we can no longer afford to be the police of the world. 
Yes, the drawdown of the wars is in the savings everyone is projecting and that's real, but it's not enough. Everyone needs a true education about what is going on, especially when staring at the pension and entitlement obligation and the size and scope of the federal government while considering that there are layers of local, regional, and state governments doing much of the same work. 
So here's the big question for the future: What happens when people sit down and realize that taxes have been raised on the rich, the wars have been drawn down, and there's still a massive hole and people are still out of work? That will be interesting to see.