Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Practices for Sustainability Emerge: A Wind Hedge as Financial and Social Innovation

Guest perspective/Roy Morrison
Today, the fundamental challenge we must face at first appears daunting. In the 21st century, economic growth must mean ecological improvement, not ecological destruction.
The news, unfortunately, is not of constructive change, but of war and disaster inextricably linked to the political and ecological consequences of our fossil fuel use.
We must ask: Can the market system heal, not destroy? Can liberal democracy endure? Can we as citizens, as businesspeople, as administrators, as workers transform a self-destructive industrial order to a prosperous and sustainable ecological civilization?
Implicit in these questions is the understanding that sustainability is not just a lofty goal, to be sacrificed to the demands of more pressing matters, but a necessity for our future prosperity and security.

A Wind Hedge
A wind hedge is a new financial means to connect energy users to renewable energy developers for their mutual advantage. It empowers energy users to facilitate and benefit from renewable energy development. It can be a powerful tool removing institutional barriers to building the renewable energy infrastructure.
The wind hedge allows renewable developers and energy end users to negotiate mutually beneficial agreements. The wind farm gets an assured and reasonable long term price for power generated; the energy user gets stable and affordable long term energy costs; society gets more renewable development, a stronger economy, and a decline in fossil fuel use and pollution. It's a win-win-win arrangement.
A wind hedge, at bottom, is an expression of the economic, social, and ecological consequences of fossil fuel use that is bringing forth healing responses to the excesses of an empire of oil. By itself, a wind hedge is not the answer to our problems. It is one manifestation, of many to come, of economic and social forces that are catalyzing a movement toward sustainability from business and pollution as usual.
A wind hedge will do more than fatten quarterly balance sheets. It improves the triple bottom line of sustainability: the financial, the social, and the ecological.
A wind hedge is a good example of the practice of sustainability representing the emergence of financial and social innovation.

A Hedge
A hedge is a means of protection. A Contract for Differences (CFD) hedge is a tried and true financial way both producers and uses control their costs.
Classically, a hedge lets a farmer in Iowa and a baker in Boston negotiate a win-win deal so both can stay in business.
The farmer can pay her mortgage if she can sell her wheat at $1.00 per bushel. The baker can pay his mortgage if he can buy wheat at $1.00 per bushel. They agree on a $1.00 strike price for 1000 bushels. The farmer sells her wheat in the Iowa market. The baker buys his wheat in the Boston market.
In the first year, there's a frost in Iowa. Wheat is $1.50. The farmer earns $1500. The farmer sends $500 to the baker. The farmer's net income is $1000.
The baker meanwhile has paid $1500 for his wheat in Boston. But he receives $500 from the farmer. His net cost is $1000.
Next year, there's a bumper crop. Wheat is 50 cents a bushel. The farmer earns just $500. And the baker pays only $500 for his wheat. The baker sends $500 to the farmer. His net cost is $1000. The farmer's net income is $1000. Over the two years, the farmer has an average income of $1.00 per bushel; the baker has an average cost of $1.00 per bushel. It's a win-win relationship.

Wind Hedge Details
A wind farm pays nothing for fuel, some money for maintenance, and a lot to bankers for their capital investments. Wind farms earn money from power sales, typically into wholesale markets. To clear the financing hurdle, a wind farm must earn enough money to cover their 20-year mortgage for capital costs.
But electricity prices vary widely. The spot market for electricity sometimes peaks at 50 cents per kilowatt-hour, and other time's falls to 2 cents. Renewable developers, to satisfy financiers, have been forced into negotiating long term power purchase contracts with utilities or other large marketers at less than favorable prices. The wind hedge, by stabilizing long term energy costs and income allows both users and developers to prosper.
The basic mechanics of the wind hedge are straightforward. The two parties agree on a quantity of power to be hedged, a strike price, and a term of years. Power generated by the wind farm is sold into its local spot market.
Each month, if the average price received by the wind farm is above the strike price, the wind farm sends a check to the energy user. If it's below the strike price, the user pays the wind farm the difference. If there's no sale of power, there's no payment by either party.
As long as the two separate markets--the wind farm's local market and the buyer's local market--behave in a similar fashion, the hedge works well. In the Northeast, for example, natural gas prices determine the market clearing prices for electricity. When natural gas prices rise or fall on the NY Mercantile Exchange, natural gas prices and electricity prices also rise or fall both in New England and in New York State. A wind hedge thus, in principle, is valid for a wind farm in New York and an energy user in New Hampshire.
Since a wind hedge is a financial arrangement only, and not a power purchase contract, the wind hedge is not limited to wind farms in the user's back yard. The user continues to buy power from its local supplier at the best price obtainable. The hedge provides economic protection.
In the U.S., large wind developers have successfully used hedge agreements with companies like Goldman Sachs, Constellation New Energy, and Morgan Stanley. Now, hedges are being actively negotiated between wind developers and businesses, universities, and governments. Completion of the first round of developer-end user wind hedges is expected shortly.

Wind Hedges and Sustainability
As a practical expression of sustainability, a wind hedge should help catalyze an ongoing ecological transformation from the ground up. This is transformation not imposed upon us by law, government, or fiat, but arising from civil society, from the actions of businesses, institutions, organizations, unions, local governments, communities, and, of course, individuals.
Sustainability, like democracy, is a social practice that, at bottom, is a matter of ongoing social innovation and renewal, of practical creativity.
Necessity means that sustainability must become an emerging characteristic of how we work, how we organize ourselves, how we measure and account for what we do.
Sustainability is an idea whose time has come. It is in response to necessity that moves us to action in accord with underlying social dynamics.
These include the creation of healing responses to excess, of the earth finding a way, and the tendency to help solve intractable problems through an increase in scale and complexity, in this case through the growth of new extensive networks between renewable power producers and power users.

Sustainability in the Market
Sustainability, in part, means smart businesspeople seeking competitive advantage in rapidly expanding markets. There's real money to be made.
Sustainability now counts. And counts big time.
General Electric President Jeffrey Imhelt, for example, has embraced "ecoimagination" and is aggressively pursuing markets for clean energy, efficiency, and clean water.
But sustainability is more than just new product development. Sustainability is, at bottom, a matter of addressing our fundamental challenge: how do we make things better in the future, not worse; how do we unleash the forces of growth in service to sustainable prosperity, strong communities, and healthy eco-systems?
We can no longer realistically choose between profit and a healthy environment. We must choose both, or we will have neither. In the 21st century we have moved from an either/or to a both/and world.
For businesses and institutions, the conduct of sustainability has become much more than rote acceptance of The World Commission on Environment and Development 1987 definition in Our Common Future (the so-called Bruntland
Report) that defined sustainability as meeting "the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
Today, we are seeing flesh put on the bones of principle.
Roy Morrison is a writer and energy consultant involved in wind hedge development. His next book, forthcoming, is "Ecocivilization 2140." For more info see his Web site and click on power point and wind hedge section.

Here are some important things going on:
The Hammer gets clocked: ["DeLay steps aside as majority leader after indictment"].
Kerry exposed: ["Kerry's not- so-amazing race, on film "].
O'Reilly smacked-down: ["O'Reilly vs. Donahue in the No Spin Zone"].
An interesting piece: ["Predictions are futile"].
Weirdness or truth?: ["Forecaster leaves job to pursue weather theories"].
Anngelle's Rock Dirt: ["The Rock Dirt"].

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Protest coverage
One of the reasons I love FAIR - Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting - is the fact that they really lay it out. Here is their latest email about disappearing antiwar protests:

"Hundreds of thousands of Americans around the country protested the Iraq War on the weekend of September 24-25, with the largest demonstration bringing between 100,000 and 300,000 to Washington, D.C. on Saturday.
But if you relied on television for your news, you'd hardly know the protests happened at all. According to the Nexis news database, the only mention on the network newscasts that Saturday came on the NBC Nightly News, where the massive march received all of 87 words. (ABC World News Tonight transcripts were not available for September 24, possibly due to pre-emption by college football.)
Cable coverage wasn't much better. CNN, for example, made only passing references to the weekend protests. CNN anchor Aaron Brown offered an interesting explanation (9/24/05):

"There was a huge 100,000 people in Washington protesting the war in Iraq today, and I sometimes today feel like I've heard from all 100,000 upset that they did not get any coverage, and it's true they didn't get any coverage. Many of them see conspiracy. I assure you there is none, but it's just the national story today and the national conversation today is the hurricane that put millions and millions of people at risk, and it's just kind of an accident of bad timing, and I know that won't satisfy anyone but that's the truth of it."
To hear Brown tell it, a 24-hour cable news channel is somehow unable to cover more than one story at a time-- and the "national conversation" is something that CNN just listens in on, rather than helping to determine through its coverage choices.
The following day (9/25/05), the network's Sunday morning shows had an opportunity to at least reflect on the significance of the anti-war movement. With a panel consisting of three New York Times columnists, Tim Russert mentioned the march briefly in one question to Maureen Dowd-- which ended up being about how the antiwar movement might affect Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential chances.
[Sidebar: This is pretty disappointed of Russert because he sometimes seems like a guy who gets it. Although, he is obsessed with a McCain/Clinton 2008 campaign. Back to FAIR]
On ABC's This Week, host George Stephanopoulos observed, "We've seen polls across the board suggesting that we're bogged down now in Iraq and now you have this growing protest movement. Do you believe that we're reaching a tipping point in public opinion?" That question was put to pro-war Republican Sen. John McCain, who responded by inaccurately claiming: "Most polls I see, that most Americans believe still that we have to stay the course.... I certainly understand the dissatisfaction of the American people but I think most of them still want to stay the course and we have to."
[Sidebar: It's clear that some of these Sunday shows need to find some new folks to put on the panels. Must we always get the same silly inside the Beltway crap? Back to FAIR.]
A recent CBS/New York Times poll (9/9-13/05) found 52 percent support for leaving Iraq "as soon as possible." A similar Gallup poll (9/16-18) found that 33 percent of the public want some troops withdrawn, with another 30 percent wanting all the troops withdrawn. Only 34 percent wanted to maintain or increase troop levels--positions that could be described as wanting to "stay the course." Stephanopoulos, however, failed to challenge McCain's false claim.
(An L.A. Times recap of the protests--9/25/05-- included a misleading reference to the Gallup poll, reporting that while the war is seen as a "mistake" by 59 percent of respondents, "There remains, however, widespread disagreement about the best solution. The same poll showed that 30 percent of Americans favored a total troop withdrawal, though 26 percent favored maintaining the current level." By leaving out the 33 percent of those polled who wanted to decrease troop numbers, the paper gave a misleading impression of closely divided opinion.)
On Fox News Sunday (9/25/05), panelist Juan Williams was rebuked by his colleagues when he noted that public opinion had turned in favor of pulling out of Iraq. Fellow Fox panelist and NPR reporter Mara Liasson responded, "Oh, I don't think that's true," a sentiment echoed by Fox panelist Brit Hume. When Williams brought up the Saudi foreign minister's statement that foreign troops were not helping to stabilize Iraq, panelist William Kristol retorted: "So now the American left is with the House of Saud." (That was, if anything, a more complimentary take on the protesters than was found in Fox's news reporting, when White House correspondent Jim Angle-- 9/26/05-- referred to them as "disparate groups united by their hatred of President Bush, in particular, and U.S. policies in general.")
Another feature of the protest coverage was a tendency to treat a tiny group of pro-war hecklers as somehow equivalent to the massive anti-war gathering. NBC's Today show (9/25/05) had a report that gave a sentence to each: "Opponents and supporters of the war marched in cities across the nation on Saturday. In the nation's capital an estimated 100,000 war protestors marched near the White House. A few hundreds supporters of the war lined the route in a counterdemonstration."
Reports on NBC Nightly News and CBS Sunday Morning were similarly "balanced," and a September 26 USA Today report gave nearly equal space to the counter-demonstrators and their concerns, though the paper reported that their pro-war rally attracted just 400 participants (that is, less than half of 1 percent of the number of antiwar marchers).
In a headline that summed up the absurdity of this type of coverage, the Washington Post reported (9/25/05): "Smaller but Spirited Crowd Protests Antiwar March; More Than 200 Say They Represent Majority." Perhaps this "crowd" felt that way because they've grown accustomed to a media system that so frequently echoes their views, while keeping antiwar voices--representing the actual majority opinion--off the radar."

Here is Steve Iskovitz's take on it:

I'm stuck in New Jersey en route back to Boston from the weekend's protests in DC, but there's a computer here, so I'll make the best of my time:
Saturday's demonstration was strangely peaceful. There were hardly any police around, and they kept their distance. Apparently this is due to a lawsuit that ANSWER won against the DC police over incidents at a demonstration here last fall in which police behaved similarly to last summer's RNC in New York, with pre-emptive arrests and all that.
As a result of this lawsuit, the court ordered the police to keep their distance, and forbade them from wearing riot gear. Without police harassment, the demo went incredibly smoothly, and shows, I guess, what demonstrators can do when left on our own, to simply demonstrate. How many were there? I don't know. The police said 150,000, so it was likely more, how much more I can't guess.
On Sunday the IMF-World Bank met. There was supposed to be a demo or action against that. I didn't get into the city until around 1 pm that day, and I walked the security perimeter and didn't see one single protester, but something might have gone on in the morning.
Monday morning there was apparently an action at the Pentagon. I wasn't there, but I did go to the action at the White House.
About 250-300 of us met at a church at 16th and P.
Cornell West said, "Katrina, Rita, Povertina..."
Coincidentally, as we left the church to begin the march, a bus from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center drove by. The police gave us a lane and otherwise left us alone as 250-300 of us marched toward the White House. Only one helicopter flew far overhead. It's strange to see a decrease in police presence and harassment, after pretty much a steady increase over the past few years.
We march past the White House to the Ellipse. A small group of women chant, "Not my son, Not my father, You want war, Send your daughters." Someone announces that over 370 people have signed up to get arrested in front of the White House.
We split into two groups and march in either direction around the White House. Only two cops, on bikes, ride alongside us up 17th St. Police heat picks up only a little during the march. The two groups of marchers reuinite at Lafayette Park in front of the White House.
Only a handful of cops guarded the White House gate as 400 or so of us arrive. As more of us get closer to the gate, some more police arrive. People hang cards with names of war dead over the wrought iron gate of the White House. Clergy and Gold Star families (families who've had a relative killed in Iraq or
Afghanistan) proceed to the front. Several of them, including Cindy Sheehan, ask to meet the President and are denied. Police give three warnings to leave, and then begin arresting one by one.
I had to leave shortly after this to catch my ride back, but up to the time I left everything was calm, and the arrests were orderly. I've read since that Cindy Sheehan was among the arrestees. I've also read that the Americans were fighting Sadr's troops, and that the British are going to start withdrawing troops next year. The whole thing appears to be caving in on Bush fairly quickly, although where that will all lead is anyone's guess.

'Cesspools in Eden'
EPA Testers Privately Telling People New Orleans is Off the Charts
CBS News is running this blog from one of their guys down in New Orleans, which includes, in part:
"The teams working in St. Bernard Parish, which is now an enormous toxic waste dump, are waking up with sore throats and other respiratory ailments. Privately, the EPA testers have told them that all the pollutants and environmental toxins are way off the scale. No one is looking to stay there long."
If this is true, there must be an immediate stop to any plans to repopulate and an immediate fullscale investigation into the EPA and what they are holding back.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press is reporting in this story that the sludge and everything else was stirred up by new flooding in New Orleans due to Rita, and they have no idea if there were any breaches at any hazardous sites. Just more reason to slow everything down.

One nation [supposedly] under God
Many Towns Turned Away Evacuees, Leading to Days-Long Bus Trip by Aron Kahn
SAN ANTONIO - A group of Hurricane Rita evacuees were forced to remain on buses for most of a bewildering, days-long trip to San Antonio because they were denied shelter in several cities, passengers said.
The exhausting trip also was extended because the evacuees were returned to Beaumont, their starting point, halfway through under the mistaken belief that it was safe to go back.
Though accounts from the fatigued passengers sometimes conflicted Monday, this general picture emerged:
Evacuees from several Gulf Coast cities - including some Hurricane Katrina evacuees - boarded Beaumont city-transit and school buses Thursday night. Along the way, some found shelter, and remaining passengers were consolidated.
As they headed northwest, they were turned away from shelters in several small towns, said David Jones, a 39-year-old Beaumont construction worker who made the trip with his pregnant wife and 2-year-old son. In some cases, fire marshals said the buildings were full.
Water and a few snacks were offered along the way, Jones said. The bus tried to return to Beaumont early in the weekend, but was stopped outside town. At one point, the manager at a motel that had no vacancies allowed passengers to sleep on the dining room floor for a few hours.
The trip was grueling for the elderly, the ill and young who were aboard. When they arrived in San Antonio on Sunday morning, 41 passengers were transferred to a shelter for people with medical problems.
The shelter sent two to a hospital immediately: a man who needed kidney dialysis and Jones' wife. Eight others were treated for severe dehydration.
"These people zigzagged all over south Texas," shelter director Robert Marbut said.
© 2005 KR Washington Bureau and wire service sources

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Boston's Top 30
Here is The Noise Top 30 chart for October.

1) Apollo Sunshine – Apollo Sunshine
2) Mobius Band – The Loving Sounds of Static
3) The Rudds – Get the Femuline Hang On
4) Waltham – The Awesome EP
5) Ashby – Looks like You’ve Already Won
6) Frank Smith – Think Farms
7) Juliana Hatfield – Made in China
8) Hrvatski – Irrevocably Overdriven Break Freakout Megamix
9) Bourbon Princess – Dark of Days
10) UV Protection – Consumer Material
11) Slim Jim and the Mad Cows – Homebrewed
12) Tiger Saw – Sing!
13) Edan – The Beauty and the Beat
14) Fast Actin’ Fuses – Advance
15) Heathen Shame – Speed the Parting Guest
16) Reverend Glasseye – Our Lady of the Broken Spine
17_ Polyethylene – Paper or Plastic
18) The Perniece Brothers – Discover a Lovelier You
19) Lovewhip – Virtual Booty Machine
20) Ad Frank – Alotta Devotion
21) Freezepop – maxi ultra fresh
22) Sarah Borges – Silver City
23) Cyanide Valentine – Let It Rot
24) The Cautions – Proceed with the Cautions
25) [munk] – “Kick out the Chairs”
26) Superpower – Superpower
27) Amun Ra – A Thousand Ticking Clocks
28) The Stairs – On Sleep Lab
29) Andrea Gillis – Andrea Gillis
30) Tracy Bonham – Blink the Brightest

Friday, September 23, 2005

All talk, little action

Philadelphia - It is increasingly frustrating to listen to some of the folks here at the NAB Radio Show go on and on about all the great things radio has done in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, while at the same time ignoring the fact that a few big corporations have destroyed this industry. Radio has done some great things in recent weeks: Helping to raise almost $200 million for hurricane relief, airing countless PSA encouraging people to help out, and collaborated within networks to get information out to the people. NAB attendees were given celebratory "Radio: Respond, Relief, Rebuild," lapel pins for our efforts, something I've proudly worn while here. As well, as an industry, radio offered $9.6 billion of community service last year alone. But about what radio does the other 50 weeks of the year?
This is the big question I am thinking about for the bulk of the day on Thursday while I hear over and over how great the radio industry is and yet I know it not to be true. If I hear "we have a great story to tell ..." one more time without addressing what is in the story, I am going to puke. What is in the story isn't a "story" at all; it is scheme or gimmick or a trick to get more ads and revenue instead of giving the listener competence and quality. And, you know, getting ads and revenue is good. Radio needs advertising to survive. After all, unless you are NPR or an affiliate, it is a business. But the "great story" should also address content issues, and no one wants to touch those here.
For the last 10 years, even before the destructive Telecom Bill of 1996, radio has been de-localizing its formats to gain more and more profit for shareholders, much to the detriment of communities. I actually heard a comment from one guy from Clear Channel who said that most of the stations which were consolidated were, paraphrasing, 'a bunch of mom and pops near bankruptcy anyway' which is just not true.

Sidebar: I touched upon a little bit about this in my posts from the NAB/RTNDA convention I attended earlier this year ["NAB/RTDNA: Second day"].

Radio has the instantious ability to share stories with people right away. And we should be. But, if a company has a bottom line and won't spend the $20k to hire a daytime reporter to share the local stories, you aren't going to be able to share those stories. As well, the perception that "less is more" when that isn't altogether true is disturbing. Less is more if you are distracting.

Be remarkable
Thursday morning opens with goodbye remarks from NAB President/CEO Eddie Fritts and an amusing presentation by Seth Godin, a marketing writer, who's talk was called "Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable."
Fritts called radio "deeply invested in the community" and promoted localism despite the fact that the transformation occurred under his watch. He also quoted Ronal Reagan a lot.
Before his talk, Godin noted that before being asked to talk before NAB, an intern had thrown up some of his own words to his face - about how bad radio was. But Godin followed that up with ways of improving things.
One of the ways Godin proved his point is by noting that some things don't always succeed. He stated that sliced bread was actually a failure business-wise, by the inventor. It wasn't until Wonder Bread took the idea and marketed it and presto, everyone wanted it. Godin made some very good points about the clutter in people's lives and how marketers have the power to interupt that clutter. Even with limited spectrum, radio had to figure out a way to get its message through. It is important not to be boring, he said. Radio should be something worth talking about and should tell stories because it has the power to make people feel a certain way.
But in even all his massaging of information and cute ideas which have broken through in the past, most of Godin had to say boiled down to this: People are sheep - use it against them to make money.

Disappointingly, a session on the Changing State of Talk Radio, hosted by Talkers Magazine, a mag I used to read a lot when their subscription rate wasn't $75 a year, became bogged down in a love fest between a guy from Clear Channel, Gabe Hobbs, the vice president of news/talk programming, and Ken Beck, the vice president of news/talk/sports for Entercom Communications, owner of WRKO in Boston [so many vice presidents, everywhere].

Sidebar: Hobbs and I had an interaction earlier this year in Vegas when I suggested to a panel of radio news folks that they were being irresponsible in their coverage of Michael Jackson and Martha Stewart and news directors should be airing important issues to the public. You can read part of that here: ["NAB/RTDNA: Second day"]. Hobbs stated that it wasn't the job of news directors to direct the news, a puzzling statement, to say the least. I have been meaning to transcribe the interaction between myself and network news panelists, which I have on mp3, but I just haven't had the time. Maybe I will at some point soon because it is relevant to read at this time. It will give a clear understanding as to why things are so screwed up in the news business.

Another panelist was a woman who and did actually attempt to steer the conversation back to where talk radio was going. I thought her name was listed in the program, so I didn't write it down, but when I went looking for it later, I couldn't find it. I think she was with one of the smaller collection of stations. There was also some side conversation about syndication, featuring comments from Doug Stephan and Neal Boortz.

Sidebar: It was interesting to hear Stephan talk because he seemed to be downplaying whether or not the political position of a host could influence the public square. I was disheartened by this because unlike probably everyone in the audience, I recall Stephan during his Talk America days, when he hosted mornings on their flagship station, 1510 AM in Boston, glorifying the NAFTA position. It was clear from his take on the issue that someone "got to him." And when I say that, I don't mean that he was cornered by the mob or anything. But he was clearly cornered by a wonk who he respected or an advertiser of his show who filled his head up with happy talk. There was a lot of that going around at the time, BTW, as there always seems to be when public policy that screws with the ordinary folks gets rushed through. The listeners of the network got pretty ticked off and Stephan got hammered for taking this position, which was surprising at the time because he was on the fence for a long time and seemed like a competent guy. In the end, NAFTA passed and turned into exactly what we all said it would be: A failed public policy, similar to the 1996 Telecom Act and a lot of what Clinton and the Republican Congress did. Not long after NAFTA's passage, 1510 started getting passed around between owners and I stopped listening to anything Stephan had to say.

I left the seminar when it was revealed that it would turn to a discussion on lifestyle talk, women's talk, Latino talk, and sports talk. No offense to Hispanics or women or sports guys, but I had enough of fluff for one day.

A big failure of this convention is the lack of information about content. Almost all of the seminars I have gone to had interesting titles but end up always coming down to revenue, share, profits, and ads, and nothing about content. This shouldn't surprise me when I realized later that the theme of the convention was the following: "Rally Around Radio - Listen. Learn. Profit." But I digress: There was a lot of good information about marketing and boosting a station's presence, things I am definitely interested it, but it would have been nice to hear a bit more about content.

Independence Hall
Before going to dinner, my boss and I decided to take in some history and took a quick one mile walk down to the Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell exhibit. Interestingly - and annoyingly - the security to see the Bell was tighter than the airports I have been in and out of in three different locations around the country. It was cool to see the Bell but I wasn't as overwhelmed by it as I thought I would be. The Hall, however, was pretty impressive. Intricate architecture and structure, you could almost feel the Founders arguing in the rooms. The guide gave us a bit of unknown history such as the fact that July 4th wasn't the actual day that the declaration was read and signed. That was July 8th. July 4th wasn't even the day it was written. That was July 2nd. The document was printed on July 4th. Another interesting point was that John Hancock actually wanted to be the commander of the Continental Army but since George Washington came to the first meeting dress in full military regalia, he was nominated and unanimously chosen to lead the army. I wonder if the outcome would have been different if John Hancock had led the forces. On the walk back, we were at a crosswalk along Market Street just before the convention hall and there was a lot of traffic when an ambulance was trying to get through the street. The people stuck at the light didn't know what to do and I helped a guy in an SUV move out of the way of the ambulance. However, this black guy and his wife, an Asian woman, in a new Lexus wouldn't move out of the way of the ambulance. All of sudden, this guy next to me starts motioning at the guy to move but he still wouldn't. So, I decided to jump in as well, yelling at the guy to move his car out of the way, and even asking the SUV to move over to create move room, which he did. But, the guy in the Lexus still wouldn't move. Eventually, he pulled into traffic, the ambulance passed. The four of us standing at the crosswalk kinda looking at each other dumbfounded that someone, in 2005, would be so obnoxious and indifferent to an emergency vehicle attempting to get through traffic. You would think in this day and age, that people wouldn't be so ignorant.

Marconi Awards
One of the highlights of the annual NAB Radio Show is its Marconi Awards dinner which was held in the grand ballroom of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The food itself was actually pretty good and we were seated with a programmer from an independent classical music station in St. Louis which didn't end up winning its category. But the conversation was good.
Of course, by no surprise, big corporate station chains won the bulk of the awards with some people in the crowd clearly believing that the process was rigged for nomination and possibly even the awards themselves. Pill-popping me-first ogre Rush Limbaugh [or Limboob as I call him, much to the chagrin of my BRI list chatters], won Network Syndicated Personality of the Year. Small Market Personality of the Year winners Ward Jacobson & Cathy Blythe of KFOR won. Blythe was adorable in her acceptance speech, talking about how her daughter spent many years tucking her into bed so she could be up at 3:15 a.m. to do morning drive in Lincoln, Nebraska. Blythe said she was proud of her daughter who has decided to go into broadcasting school.
There were also some lowlights of the evening - like mixed humor from Kidd Kraddick, a syndicated clown from Dallas, who emceed the show. He did a pretty funny bit about the Payola scandals in the radio business which left many of the corporate mucky mucks in the crowd aghast. That isn't such a big thing, is it? But his crude jokes about having sex with Dr. Laura and jokes about Bush and Clinton, hand puppets and all, went over like lead balloons. Needless to say, we left early.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

More consolidation coming ...

Philadelphia - At the same time that advances in technology put the radio business in flux, heavy-hitters from the industry are warning that more consolidation will be coming.
At the first "Super Session" of the 2005 National Association of Broadcaster Radio Show Convention, entitled "Broadcast Financing 2005: Radio on the Rebound," panelists from a number of major banks and large radio companies predicted about $5 billion in station sales and transactions over the next few years and many did not believe the challenges facing the industry - podcasting, news from the Web, FCC problems or satellite radio - would affect this trend or profits in the future.
However, one panelist, Peter Smyth of Greater Media, Inc., which owns four stations in the Boston including political talk WTKK, said his company was not going to expand just for the sake of expanding. Greater Media, he said, was going to embrace technology issues and he saw them as an opportunity and not a hindrance. Smyth also noted that the future of radio was to "get back to basics" by connecting with listener communities and create "localisms."
"Radio needs to regroup," he said.

Sidebar: It should be noted that while many of the Greater Media Boston stations have local disc jockeys on their music stations, they also have some syndication, which puts local folks out of work. On its talker, WTKK, the company has syndicated hosts Bill O'Reilly, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Don Imus, as well as formerly syndicated - soon to be future - Jay Severin. All of these hosts are considered conservative in their politics in what some people say could potentially be a profitable liberal listening area. There are a couple of local hosts who have one hour programs - including liberal Jim Braude who shares a show with more moderate Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan. Plagiarist Mike Barnicle also has a one hour show. I don't know what other talk stations are like at Greater Media, but his comments about localism in the Boston area rings a tad hollow.

Gary Lawrence of First Broadcasting Investment Partners, LLC, said that banks were eager to invest in radio consolidation, noting that there was no shortage of money available. He called the market "very resilient," adding, that no one he has known has been unable to to get money.
Elliot Evers, of Media Venture Partners, LLC, said there was great expectation for growth because "the weighted cost of capital is historically low."
"There is a good environment on pricing of debt," he said. "As long as you can buy money cheaply, there will be more multiples."
Another panelist called the lending environment "robust" because of expected growth potential and the industry's high value.
There was also a lot of banking talk at the seminar - since this was sponsored by Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky LLP, a New York law firm.
Outside of this particular event, there was a lot of talk about the fact that many radio stations are over-valued and the asking prices are way too high. I overheard a conversation between a middle-aged man from the Bay Area looking to buy a station and some other folks. The man looking to buy complained about costs or the fact that whatever he could afford was junk. I retorted, "One man's junk is another man's treasure," and added that new buyers had to start small and build up. The potential buyer agreed to a point. Then again, he could have been just blowing steam out of his backside. Who knows if he was really a potential buyer or not.
I had a pretty good lunch in the Reading Terminal, an area similar to Fanuiel Hall in Boston, with markets and sandwich places, but no, I didn't have a Philly cheese steak.

Station 'culture' and newspapers of the future
Later on in the day on Wednesday, I attended two interesting conversations about radio: The culture of your company office and whether a station Web site will become the newspaper of the future. What was interesting these talks was the fact that both dealt with the long-term health of a radio station or media company. If you don't have a pleasant and healthy work environment [hence culture], there is a good chance you would be able to keep good employees happy; if your station [or company] can't modernize, you won't be able to stay alive in an every-changing and competitive atmosphere of the current technological wave.
The panelists for Awesome Station Culture ... No Matter Who You Work For - like many of the talks here - were representatives of a slew of corporate behemoths: Clear Channel, Cox, and Entercom. They were supposed to have a local person on the panel but they didn't show up. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But sometimes, the folksy approach, is better than technocratic approach. The point: It would have been nice to hear from a small market owner or operator about improving station culture, that's all.
What attracted me to this seminar was the first section of the description: "They say you can tell whether a station's successful by the vibe you feel in the lobby ..." Isn't that the truth?
I thought the talk was pretty good but a lot of it was management [again, technocratic] gobblygook. Some of it was positive - complement your employees at least once a week, end conflicts before they simmer or explode, and have meetings which result and tangible instruction/discussion and delegation of new things to be done, etc. But if much of the information was implemented, no one could fit it into an ordinary day. If you did everything that was proposed, you wouldn't get any work done! Hence the term, management. Hah!

The other seminar, Your Radio Website: The Newspaper of the Future?, was more interesting but also dealt more with marketing and sales revenues, and less about content.
The guy promoting this talk, Roger Utnehmer, an owner of three stations in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, addressed a number of key issues including the importance of local content. In a town of 8,000, he has three full-time reporters who cover news, videotape events, and Webstream everything. They cover the big stuff and the small stuff. They Webstream five football games every Friday night. Their site - - also looks like a newspaper, which is pretty cool. How does he finance the expenses such as a T-1 line, reporters, etc.? He concentrates on the local, auctions off his barters and other items to listeners in a Saturday morning shopping/auction show, and goes after potential clients with a vengence. Utnehmer described himself as "a politically progressive capitalist pig" ... an interesting comment, to say the least.
But throughout the presentation, I just couldn't believe what I was hearing - how could such a small outfit like his be making $25k to $40k per month? How could they be getting $3,500 from car dealers to put mini three minute TV ads on the Web? Impossible. I just can't believe it. I didn't say anything negative to him in person. In fact, I commended him for his commitment to local journalism and sports. But, he is either the best snake oil salesmen ever or a brilliant genius. Maybe, he is some form of the two!
What helped make me feel this way was the presentation by Dave Casper of RAB, who showed everyone how to set up your own auction system, through his company, of course, as a way of making more money. While there wasn't any pressure at all to sign up, there was a blur between the two, which was a bit odd.
Again, like I said, there wasn't much about how the content of the Web site could become the newspaper of the future or compete for people attempting to get news; just how a station could potential bust the gut of a local newspaper by going after their advertisers.

Later, I attended a Super Session roundtable about programming which wasn't too bad either. The Super Sessions are held in the large ballroom and have video cameras and large screens.
There was a lot of talk about reinventing formats and being unpredictable, like a late night talk show, and trying to be local and relevant. There was also some digital radio talk and also anticipation about Arbitron's new PPM or "portable people meter" system which is supposedly going to replace the handbook they send out to gather ratings.
The group also spoke about some of the best promotions they had seen of late. There was the gas promo - set up months before prices boomed; there was one thing that a DJ did to help a teenager with learning disabilities go on his first date; there was also a silly fugitive game, where the DJ described the person who people should seek out in the city and the first person to figure out who it was would win a prize; there was also a promotion tying in the Hummer H3 SUV and a trip to Hawaii, aimed at 18-plus men called "Win a Hummer in Hawaii ..."

I had probably one of the best dinners ever at Morton's Steak House. Every place around the convention center was booked solid and this was the only place that fit us in. Also, I was able to hang out with my former colleague, Kristina Arvanitis, the former reporter for The Star, for a quick beer at the Monk's Cafe. I was so proud to hear that she is doing so well in law school and even made the law review. That is so awesome!
Due to a slight problem trying to get up and running with the computer, I was unable to blog yesterday. The Wi-Fi at the PCC is spotty at best. When I went back to the same place I was earlier, I was no longer able to get the feed. Very odd.
However, a lot of interesting things have been happening here. I will write some of them up and make a post later on today.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Bloggin' from NAB
With free Wi-Fi coming from the Philadelphia Convention Center, I have decided to blog live from the radio conference sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters. Check back for interesting posts about what is going on in radio right now ... in as close to real time as I possibly can get!

Monday, September 19, 2005

In an Iggy kinda mood

How busy am I? Boo hoo. I got this cool Iggy Pop DVD "Live at the Avenue B" for my birthday more than a month ago and I am just getting to watch it now ... very loud ... and it is so wonderful. It is amazing that this guy is 58, jumping around, like he is 12. And he still rocks as hard as he ever did!
Actually, there is something to be said for old rockers of late. I saw Lou Reed live on CN8 from some place in California and he was pretty good too. He still has that amazing Fernando Saunders playing bass with him too which is great.

The sucky music industry
How bad are things? Check out this pretty good overview in the New York Daily News about the payola scandal going on in the music which you don't hear word one about except in the newspapers: ["Sleazy listening "]. I especially love this line:
Daniel Glass, CEO of New York-based Artemis Records, a small company with a limited promotion budget, said the impact of payola is demonstrated by the scant radio time given independent releases.
"We are 23% to 28% of record sales, but we're 3% to 7% of radio airplay," he said.
Pathetic. That is the thing about the world today - almost everything is effin' rigged. Airplay on the radio is rigged. Rescue attempts are rigged. Government contracts are rigged. The stock market is rigged. Gas prices are rigged. The tax code is rigged. You name it; it's rigged. It makes me want to pull out Iggy's "Search and Destroy" ... Hah!

"Takin' on the Kennedys ..."
What are Kevin Scott's odds? ["Republican maverick to oppose Ted Kennedy; Belongs to the "Howie Carr" school of thought"]. I wonder ... although the Carr connection can't hurt. It will be a long shot but who knows?
This reminds me about this great documentary produced by a guy who lived in Somerville about Kevin Converse, this congressional candidate in Rhode Island, who ran again Ted Kennedy's recovering addict son Patrick "Patches" Kennedy. It was partially taped on those Fisher Price 8 mm cameras and followed this moderate Republican doctor, who worked with AIDS patients BTW, while he got pummeled by the Kennedy machine. It was aired on PBS of all places and it was something else to watch.
Someday, I hope it comes out on DVD, because it was a pretty good film.
Speaking of Carr, he has a book coming out: "The Brothers Bulger" ... I can hardly wait!

A class act
How about this? The weekend before the NYC primary, I happened to be in the area helping my inlaws pack up their home to move south. It was a pretty interesting trip ... made all the more interesting after leaving the Washington, D.C. area, entering into the deepest of Red States south, with cotton fields, southern twangs, friendly people, and really low food and gas prices. But that is another story.
Before leaving the New York area, I was able to catch some of the NYC primary ads in what one person could easily consider another brutal Democratic primary. However, something happened: One of the losing Democrats - who could have pushed for a run-off and possibly wounded the eventual nominee, like what happened to Mark Green a few years back - bowed out! ["Concession Sets Up Bloomberg-Ferrer Race"]. How about that, huh? Maybe there is hope for some pols after all.

Friday, September 9, 2005

A Hard Lesson
Guest Perspective: Roy Morrison
On Tuesday, last week, my son Sam started the seventh-grade in middle school. My friend Luanne's son left on a plane for duty in Iraq. And it became clear that the storm that had "missed" New Orleans did nothing of the kind.
The worst offense in this week that shamed America was not just the Bush administration's manifest failures. What cuts deepest was their refusal to call for help from the American people when clearly the job of saving the afflicted in New Orleans and other storm-ravaged towns was beyond them.
It was only on the Sunday before Labor Day that we heard that the NAACP had mobilized black churches, that had recruited thousands to open their homes, that ambulances and aid had started to stream south from all over the country. Nearby, in Claremont, residents are collecting food and clothing for Mississippi. The trickle of help is now becoming a grassroots torrent.
The lesson of the week is not just that the Bush gang is incompetent and callous, a bunch of well-connected lightweights that have disgraced our nation. Almost everyone in the world has seen that. The really hard lesson we need to learn is that they have once again stopped the American people from taking effective action in time of greatest peril and greatest need.
After Sept. 11, when real discussion was underway about the meaning of the attacks, about what America should do and be in the world, when commercials disappeared from the televisions for two weeks, our fearless leader advised Americans not to volunteer, not to sign up and come to the aid of our country. Oh no, George W. Bush told us to go shopping, go to work, and take those airline vacation trips.
The newly anointed War against Terror, soon to become (although we didn't know it yet) an invasion of Iraq, was to be left to the professionals - the source of all wisdom and intelligence - who would keep us safe. Sure they have. Osama bin Laden must be laughing at us once again in his burrow watching CNN.
I'd like to think that on Wednesday, when the scope of the disaster became apparent, our government would have called able bodied men and women with some relevant skills to go to New Orleans, and that some of my neighbors, even me, would have responded.
On Newmarket Road in Warner, for example, there is Doug the logger, mechanic and heavy equipment operator; Peter, a Master Diver Trainer, EMT, and firefighter; Alan, a professional blaster and artist ... with a backhoe. I ride around with a sea kayak on top of my car. Lena, who's back in Warner, did in-home child care for my son Sam. She lived for some time in New Orleans, working at building Mardi Gras floats for crews. She could have provided guidance.
But we'll never know if we would have responded to the challenge. Instead of telling tales of help being on the way, the Bush crew could have called upon the American people for assistance. Beyond just sending dollars, lots of us would have gone because our neighbors were going.
But that would be a different America, a self-reliant and confident democracy. Instead, we are sacred and forlorn; disgusted with our government and with what our country has permitted and with what we are becoming.
It's time to take back America from this gang for all our sakes. And it's time for us to say to those who suffered unnecessarily in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, not just that we are sorry, but, to the extent we are able, how can we help?
Roy Morrison is an energy consultant and writer in Warner. His latest book, "Eco Civilization 2140: A 22nd Century History and Survivor's Journa," is forthcoming.

I haven't been on top of this CBGBs story because I don't keep track of a lot going on in NYC. But one of my old haunts is fighting its life and has now been served its eviction notice: ["CBGBs Served With Eviction Notice"]. What is really intriguing about this is the Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, both Republicans, are with the punks, new wavers, and indie rockers, in trying to save the institution against developers. Wow.

Bush approval sliding ... but Kerry still wouldn't win
This latest Zogby International poll is downright scary: ["Bush Job Approval Hits 41%—All Time Low"]. And, it isn't just scary because he is below 50 percent and falling. It is scary because the pathetic soulless yuppie John Kerry still wouldn't be able to beat Bush if the election were re-held today! That is shocking.
Sidebar: This is a hilarious post on Daily Kos from Monday about what would have happened to Kerry on talk radio had he been elected: ["Transcript: Rush Limbaugh Tears Pres. Kerry a New One"].

Other headlines
This is so upsetting: ["AP: 300 Ga. Businesses Got 9/11 Loans"]. We were all affected by the Sept. 11 attacks. We all lost friends, and friends of friends. We all took benefit cuts or worked years without raises because business was bad. Sure, some of us more than others were harmed. But what are developers and day care centers getting these loans but folk in NYC aren't? What kind of insanity is that?
This is also upsetting: ["I just got back from a FEMA Detainment Camp"]. Very strange stuff here and I don't know how legit it is. But, I have always been fascinated by the conspiracy theories that have been attached to FEMA. I remember in the early 1990s that some of the shortwave radio hosts and others on small networks were talking about "concentration camps" that were building built around the country and trains would bring people to these camps and no one knew about them or why they were being built. It was all pooh-poohed of course; mostly because the folks who were talking about it weren't considered credible at the time by everyone in the media, whatever that means. But this is really interesting because it looks like an actual detainment camp and we now the both rail and buses are being used to move people out of New Orleans. Very strange. Very strange indeed.
This would be upsetting ... if it weren't so pathetic: ["Rod Stewart Ordered to Pay for Vegas Show"]. Gee, you get paid $2 mil ... you don't show up ... you keep the money ... and, why are we having this conversation again? Pay up Rod, you friggin' dead beat.
This should be upsetting: ["Poor, Black, and Left Behind"]. If you read this too quickly, you would never believe that it was written more than a year before Katrina.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Project Censored
The latest list of important stories which never made it into the mainstream press has been released by Project Censored: ["Outrageous and uncovered"]. As always with this group, there is a lot of good stuff to take in and this text is the abbreviated version. However, I would advise that readers spend the $12 and buy the expanded paperback book edition which will be available on Sept. 28. It keep the outfit running and is always a good read.
This year, however, I am a bit disappointed that the issue of exit polling and alleged vote fraud made it into the list in the "Another year of distorted election coverage" segment. It is a good point to say that maybe the mainstream press should have given this issue more thorough coverage; but it is based on assumptions that don't always hold true. You cannot predict an election's result based on sampling 1/1,000 or 1/10,000 or 1/100,000 of one percent. The "eight million vote discrepancy" they speak of is a guess based on sampling; not actual votes being counted, and therefore does not "prove" fraud in any way. Exit polling is a sampling; it isn't the end all and be all. It is a way of gathering some interesting information about what the electorate is thinking but it doesn't tell you how they actually voted since it isn't based on actual votes; just a survey.
The problem is that political people live by their tools and die by their tools. Exit polling also doesn't take into account a whole lot of voting factors and anomalies which happen during elections. It also doesn't take into account that some people refuse to answer exit polling and that refusal can sway the results.
For example, let's say a hippie college student is sent to collect information for exit polls in a Republican district which doesn't like hippies too much. There is a good chance that only people comfortable being near hippies would fill out the survey. This would sway the results of the district on the exit poll to John Kerry by no fault of the process, with the data showing the opinions of the hippie supporter and not the people who didn't like the hippie. The data from one area is not reflective of the district as a whole based on one single factor: The appearance of the data collector.
I will use another example: Let's say there is exit polling data being collected in a very liberal area but someone on NPR joked that voters shouldn't answer exit polling surveys. The commentator suggests that this would create a hidden Kerry surprise because the early data would show President Bush comfortably in the lead. There is a good chance that the liberals listening to NPR would go back to their jobs and not fill out the surveys, isn't there? This would skew the sample from what should be a strong Kerry district and a dangerous assumption would be made with that data.
A thoughtful person can create any combination of these factors and easily make assumptions about the data collected for exit polling and prove that the data can't be trusted.
Add to this the fact that almost every conservative commentator - from Sean Hannity on down - was begging people on thousands of radio stations across the nation to get out and vote because John Kerry was leading in the early exit polling. This happened all day long after the first two rounds of exit polling data - at 9 a.m. and noon - were released to the news agencies and subscribers. The data showed a Kerry landslide. And, as we have seen, the data later showed a confident Kerry win. So confident were the sources that about five representatives from Massachusetts were already gearing up for the special election to fill Kerry's Senate seat even before the votes were counted. The data was wrong.
Time and time again, even before electronic voting machines, exit polls have been proven wrong. Just a few examples from here in our own state of New Hampshire: The 1988 Republican Presidential primary where George H. W. Bush was down by nine points before the election but ended up beating then-Sen. Bob Dole by eight percent, a 17-point spread, after the votes were counted ... and that was before indies were allowed to vote in primaries! Another example? CBS News calling the 1996 Senate race for Dick Sweat around 7 p.m. on national television against Republican incumbent Bob Smith, based on exit polls, even though polling locations were still open in the state! Those are just two from one state. I'm sure there are many more examples if anyone took the time to do the research.
There is no doubt in anyone's mind that what went on in Ohio - with the setting up of fewer voting machines in Democratic strongholds so there were long lines, discouraging turnout - was criminal. It is also interesting to think back to election night, seeing helicopters hovering over places like Cincinnati, shooting film of a lot of city folk standing in line to vote, and juxtaposed that with the helicopters taking pictures of a lot of city folk waiting to get rescued in New Orleans.