Friday, February 27, 2009

An Oscar for Activism

Guest Perspective/Ralph Nader
As the 2009 Academy Awards swept their way into history, the glitz and the massive global audiences show that across cultures fictional stories, mythologies and money go hand in hand.

As the nominees for the awards were briefly showcased for their artistic imagination in one category after another, it occurred to me that the saying “truth is stranger than fiction” has another meaning. Many people would rather see fiction than the real thing.

What if, permit a flight of fancy, there were the equivalent of the “Academy Awards” for the civic heroism that goes on every day here and abroad. The powerless valiant ones who challenge the powerful and corrupt in ways that throughout history have broken new ground for more justice, economic well-being, health, safety and freedom. They are mostly unsung. They are often marginalized or maligned.

The history books make reference to only a very few—anti slavery abolitionists, women fighting for the vote, workers for the right to organize, farmers for federal regulation of brazen banks and railroads. People take on, for example, corrupt city machines, company towns dominated by a single plant or mine, toxic contamination of drinking water supplies, corporate looters of worker pensions, manufacturers of defective cars and harmful medicines.

Recognition before large audiences keeps a highly nourished concept of the heroic before the people. It gives support to those who take the first step and who speak truth to power. Acclaim is protective and encourages more people to follow in the shoes of these citizen-pioneers. Civic heroism changes the culture and the dreams of youth.

Movies are meant to be dramatic and can take liberties with reality even when they are describing real-life situations and people. But Hollywood can make almost any story dramatic and interesting. Look at "Frost/Nixon." On the other hand, there have been great flops with pure violent action—consider Ishtar.

Anything that is important to people in the course of their daily life can be made interesting. Real life narratives of people taking on power and cruelty can be compelling, without losing authenticity.

How would the Civic Heroism Awards be organized? The process would start at the community level with nominations and take it up to the state, national, and international level. Unlike game shows and beauty contests, the nominees would not be allowed to promote themselves. What they have already done is why they have been nominated. There is no present or future enhancement at ever higher levels of awards for what they had accomplished and striven for in the past.

Consider for a moment the peoples’ infrastructure that such a multi-tiered annual award process would stimulate. Local video producers would see an opportunity to profile potential nominees over the Internet, Cable and local screenings. The digital era assures the widespread egalitarian prevalence of such productions. Thousands of communities would be involved.

Discussions, debates and banter would be stimulated over the criteria for nominations which would include awards for “the supporting cast” around the heroes as is done by the Academy Awards.

The teaching of civics in the local schools would become more attached to local activities beyond textbook study. Putting a human face on civic action will stir the minds of youngsters presently saturated with often degrading electronic “virtual realities.”

The positive repercussions are many. Just the chance to become civic celebrities through this process of recognition increases media exposure and greater attention to the serious conditions and reforms that the nomination processes highlight.

The formulaic local television evening news—with its nine minutes of ads, four minutes of sports, four minutes of weather, chitchat, animal stories and miscellaneous fluff leaves very little time for civic news to attract the dwindling number of television reporters. Daily civic efforts to improve community life and justice wither on the vine for lack of any media coverage.

Civic heroism awards—done in a professional and exciting manner—can compel news coverage. Even in print form, columnists like Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times roams the continents of Asia, Africa and South America to find the most courageous and besieged people standing up at great risk for human dignity and humane treatment.

The drama is in the people. The search is for the civic dramatists to find their calling. Finally, philanthropy needs to come forward to jumpstart what could become the citizen equivalent of the Academy Awards from the local to the global for these stalwart pillars of just and democratic societies.

Readers: do you know any likely philanthropists? Have them contact Awards Project at PO Box 19367, Washington, DC, 20036.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Unemployment rises ...

Both the Union Leader and WMUR-TV are reporting that the unemployment rate in New Hampshire rose to 5.1 percent in January 2009 ... the highest in 15 years.

Hearing set for bill to help towns schedule special Town Meetings

The House is fast-tracking a bill that will allow communities to schedule special town meetings on short notice so they might take up budget issues that arise after receiving federal money from the economic stimulus package.
The Senate, on Feb. 18, passed Senate Bill 39, which would allow the special town meetings with only seven days notice.
The House Municipal and County Government Committee will hold a public hearing on the bill Tuesday, March 3, at 1 p.m. in Room 301-303 of the Legislative Office Building. The bill is expected to go to the full House on Wednesday, March 11, the day after traditional town meetings are held across the state.
About a third of New Hampshire’s residents live in communities which hold traditional town meetings. Generally, public notices in regard to the town meeting must, by law, be posted weeks and even months in advance.

Monday, February 23, 2009

If our govt buys a bigger stake in Citibank ...

... they better lower interest rates to a reasonable amount, like maybe 5 percent, for every single American who has a Citibank card. And, as well, all foreigners hired by the bank should be let go and replaced by American citizens. Essentially, if we, the people of America, are going to own this bank, we should get the benefits of ownership along with the risk. Please, someone, anyone, start preparing a class action lawsuit now!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Things that make me ... sigh ...

Finally catching up on the pile of WSJs sitting on my kitchen table. Of late, I don't get to them until the weekend which is one of the reasons I'm not renewing my subscription [that, and they want $50 more than I paid last year!].

Banking on Credit Unions

Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader
While the reckless giant banks are shattering like an over-heated glacier day by day, the nation’s credit unions are a relative island of calm largely apart from the vortex of casino capitalism.

Eighty five million Americans belong to credit unions which are not-for-profit cooperatives owned by their members who are depositors and borrowers. Your neighborhood or workplace credit union did not invest in these notorious speculative derivatives nor did they offer people “teaser rates” to sign on for a home mortgage they could not afford.

Ninety one percent of the 8,000 credit unions are reporting greater overall growth in mortgage lending than any other kinds of consumer loans they are extending. They are federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) for up to $250,000 per account, such as the FDIC does for depositors in commercial banks.

They are well-capitalized because of regulation and because they do not have an incentive to go for high-risk, highly leveraged speculation to increase stock values and the value of the bosses’ stock options as do the commercial banks.

Credit Unions have no shareholders nor stock nor stock options; they are responsible to their owner-members who are their customers.

There are even some special low-income credit unions—thought not nearly enough—to stimulate economic activities in these communities and to provide “banking” services in areas where poor people can’t afford or are not provided services by commercial banks.

According to Mike Schenk, an economist with the Credit Union National Association, there is another reason why credit unions avoided the mortgage debacle that is consuming the big banks.

Credit Unions, he says, are “portfolio lenders. That means they hold in their portfolios most of the loans they originate instead of selling them to investors….so they care about the financial performance of those loans.”

Mr. Schenk allowed that with the deepening recession, credit unions are not making as much surplus and “their asset quality has deteriorated a bit. But that’s the beauty of the credit union model. Credit unions can live with those conditions without suffering dire consequences,” he asserted.

His use of the word “model” is instructive. In recent decades, credit unions sometimes leaned toward commercial bank practices instead of strict cooperative principles. They developed a penchant for mergers into larger and larger credit unions. Some even toyed with converting out of the cooperative model into the shareholder model the way insurance and bank mutuals have done.
The cooperative model—whether in finance, food, housing or any other sector of the economy—does best when the owner-cooperators are active in the general operations and directions of their co-op. Passive owners allow managers to stray or contemplate straying from cooperative practices.

The one area that is now spelling some trouble for retail cooperatives comes from the so-called “corporate credit unions”—a terrible nomenclature—which were established to provide liquidity for the retail credit unions. These large wholesale credit unions are not exactly infused with the cooperative philosophy. Some of them gravitate toward the corporate banking model. They invested in those risky mortgage securities with the money from the retail credit unions. These “toxic assets” have fallen $14 billion among the 28 corporate credit unions involved.

So the National Credit Union Administration is expanding its lending programs to these corporate credit unions to a maximum capacity of $41.5 billion. NCUA also wants to have retail credit unions qualified for the TARP rescue program just to provide a level playing field with the commercial banks.

Becoming more like investment banks the wholesale credit unions wanted to attract, with ever higher riskier yields, more of the retail credit union deposits. This set the stage for the one major blemish of imprudence on the credit union subeconomy.

There are very contemporary lessons to be learned from the successes of the credit union model such as being responsive to consumer loan needs and down to earth with their portfolios. Yet in all the massive media coverage of the Wall Street barons and their lethal financial escapades, crimes and frauds, little is being written about how the regulation, philosophy and behavior of the credit unions largely escaped this catastrophe.

There is, moreover, a lesson for retail credit unions. Beware and avoid the seepage or supremacy of the corporate financial model which, in its present degraded overly complex and abstract form, has become what one prosecutor called “lying, cheating and stealing” in fancy clothing.

Friday, February 20, 2009

All I can say is ...

It better be Heath on Sunday ...

Wow, what is going on in this state?

Take a look at this story and video about things going on in Atkinson.
I stumbled across this story while looking through the headlines on the Union Leader Web site this morning: ["Residents sue Atkinson chief, town officials"].
This kinda stuff does not surprise me. It happens in all kinds of small towns [and big cities] when people let the power go to their heads and they forget that they are there to serve the public, not their interests. Thankfully, there is a video clip, on cable, of the moderator telling a citizen that he couldn't take pictures during the town meeting. Absolutely amazing:

And then there is this, from the "Can't he just go away already" category: ["Bill Clinton: Obama Should Sound More Hopeful"].

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oh, this might be interesting ...

Alex Jones' new documentary: "The Obama Deception" ...

Changes in the car industry ...

Yahoo has this story about changes coming to GM and Chrysler as the companies try to figure out how to salvage themselves: ["Brands: What Stays, What Goes"].
I'm a tad surprised by some of this. I've often heard that the PT Cruiser was a popular model. It's also too bad about Saturn and Saab. Saab was actually a very profitable company when it was a foreign company. Sometimes bigger is not always better ...
Conservative talk radio is going to have a field day with this one: ["Dem exclusive? Reporters jump ship"].
Of course, with the way things are going on in the newspaper business, can anyone blame them for taking a cushy federal job? The benefits alone are worth it!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I don't think I'll be going to Burger King ever again ...

I don't eat out at a lot of fast food places. Although I prefer Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich, in a pinch, I'll grab some onion rings and a chicken sandwich at BK, if need be. However, after watching this, I don't think I'm ever going to go there again:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dandy Warhols cop Love & Rockets ... again!

OK, so earlier tonight I'm at work, listening to Love & Rockets' "Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven," and I recognize a song ... Where I have heard that before? I wonder out loud.
I stop the mp3 and hit the beginning again. The song is called "God and Mr. Smith" and I know the riff from somewhere ... and then, bam, it hits me - it's on the new Dandy's record, "Earth to Dandy Warhols." The song on their CD is "Valerie Yum." At the very end, it cycles through the same riff as the intro to "God and Mr. Smith"!
This is the same thing I caught the Dandys doing on a previous song, noted here: ["SNL video censored"].
You know, I love the Dandys ... a lot. I have all their CDs. I listen to them all the time. But this is two instances now where they have directly lifted whole sections of songs by Love & Rockets.

In the 'there's hope for us yet' category ...

That is how one of my co-workers term it when he saw this article in the WSJ: ["A Reporter Faces the Naked Truth"].
I missed this since I let my print subscription to the WSJ lapse [They want $149 for the annual renewal, a bargain when you think about it. But I've only ever paid $99 for it so ...]. I doubt any of us will be taking on such jobs in the near future but you never know.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hearing Tuesday will discuss extending governor's term

Tuesday, Feb. 17, at 9:10 a.m. the state Senate Election Law Committee will hold a hearing on a bill to extend the governor's term to four years here in New Hampshire starting in 2012. The hearing will be in the Legislative Office Building, Room 101.
I don't know how I feel about this. I kinda like being able to elect the governor every two years. But, it's worth hearing why others think the term should be extended.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Comments on Lynch's budget ...

It's important to remember a few things when taking a look at Gov. Lynch's budget:

1) As Republicans have been stating for a while now, state spending increased 17 percent. So, in an economic downturn, where revenues are not keeping up with expenditures, cuts would be needed to offset such a huge increase in spending. While I agree that many of the things the state has tried to do in the last two years are good things, maybe it was done too soon, too expensively, too fast. One could surmise that maybe state spending should have been a bit more controlled in the previous Legislative sessions.

2) While many of the things proposed by Gov. Lynch are regressive in nature, a state sales tax is also regressive. If implemented, it would hit every single person in the state every time they purchased something, whether or not they were rich or poor, young or old. The governor tinkering with things to make ends meet without hurting the purchasing power of the poor or seniors was a good strategy.
A sales tax would also hurt our state economically because residents of Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts, would no longer have a reason to do their retail spending here. This could potentially cost the state a lot of jobs in the retail sector, the only sector other than health care that seems to be retaining itself.
The rooms and meals tax would also suffer because no one from those states would be eating out after their trips to our malls. Let's not forget that we sock them all with a 9 percent tax whereas they could eat at home with just a 5 percent tax [in Massachusetts]. This could hurt border town restaurants and therefore, hurt jobs by folks who need those jobs most - students, moms, people with second jobs who need the tip income - etc.

3) While a state income tax is not as regressive, technically, it is worthy of suspicion, especially when we look at how other states have used it to randomly raise taxes whenever they needed to. In Mass., it has been a disaster over the years. Interested readers can check out this overview: ["Thank goodness New Hampshire has the pledge"].
In addition, historically, income tax advocates in New Hampshire have always promoted it as a way of eliminating the state-wide property tax. But guess what? The most recent proposal doesn't do away with the state-wide property tax! It only offers an exemption. If implemented, property owners with homes assessed at more than $100,000 will be paying both an income tax and state-wide property tax. There is no renter’s deduction in the proposal, so renters would see no rent relief at all in the drop in the state-wide property tax but their income would be sapped. In other words, some of the poorest residents in our state would be double-taxed! This is as regressive as the sales tax.
In addition to all of this, there seems to be no state-wide standard on assessments. I mean, look at the situation in Concord, where trailers are assessed at more than what they sold for or could sell for! Would it be long before some towns were monkeying with assessments so that some people could escape paying their "fair share" of the state-wide property tax? As the saying goes, figures lie and liars figure ... how long before cities and towns are at war over assessments in the wake of an income tax?
New Hampshire residents who work out of state would also get double-taxed on their incomes. Sure, some proponents note that Massachusetts, where they collect $260 million from New Hampshire residents, has an exemption for out-of-state income taxes paid. But how soon will it be after New Hampshire implements an income tax that the Mass. Legislature eliminates this loophole after realizing that $260 million in exemptions just flew out the window? Not long, let me guarantee you of that. If they are going to get into lawsuit tiffs over lost sales tax revenues at tire companies doing business in both states, it will only be a matter of time before this exemption disappears. Poof, those of us who live in New Hampshire and work in Massachusetts will see our tax burden double. If anything, we, the thousands of people who commute to Massachusetts to work, should be thanked - not punished - for enduring two hours of commuting a day and not burdening the Granite State economy with our employment needs [tongue firmly planted in cheek].

What is my point? Gov. Lynch is right to do all he can to balance the budget without broad-based taxes and I personally commend him for what he is proposing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Shocker: People don't like tabloid 'news' after all!

Check out this study from Pew: ["Stimulus News Seen As More Negative Than Positive"].
While it is mostly about the stimulus stuff, the subhead says it all: "Too Much Coverage of Phelps, Octuplets" ...
This is something I have been saying for years and I'm glad to finally see some specific data to back up my gut feelings. When it comes down to it, people don't really care about this tabloid crap. Sure, they like features and fun and happy news. They don't want it to be bleak all the time. But they also want serious news about serious things.
The media's downfall will be the fact that instead of trying to educate people and empower them with real information, they took the easy route. They dumbed folks down in a race to the bottom just like everything else in this world right now.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Jolting Congress

Guest Perspective/Ralph Nader

Can Congress “walk and chew gum at the same time?”

This phrase used by President Lyndon Johnson for one of his political opponents comes to mind at a time early in the first 100 days of the Obama Administration when supposedly many long-overdue changes and rollbacks are possible.

It is not just that Congress is completely absorbed with the tax-cut-stimulus package. It is stasis that seems to be enveloping, even within its numerous well-funded and staffed committees in the House and Senate, from even the signaling of serious movement toward rolling back Bush-pushed legislation and starting widely supported forays that take hope to change.

The continuation of this state of stasis is made more likely because the Republican minority is feeling its oats. It put the White House on the defensive during the struggle to enact economic recovery legislation even though previous Republican policies and coddling of Wall Street for eight years build a steep cliff for financial collapse. Add the de-regulatory moves of 1999 and 2000 by the Clinton-Rubin crowd and the financial meltdown accelerates.

There is something else operating. One gets the feel on Capitol Hill among some fairly sharp people of a lack of horizon, a paucity of progressive determination, a sense of being overwhelmed by the corporate forces still bearing down on Congress—easily the most powerful branch of government under our Constitution.

But Congress does not act as if it is the most powerful branch. It routinely abdicates its constitutional responsibilities—the declaration of war authority and the plenary authority to investigate and require access to information in the executive branch.

Even after the Democrats took control of the Congress in January 2007, George W. Bush again and again got his way including a rubber stamp for the huge Iraq and Afghanistan war budgets outside of the normal appropriations processes.

Efforts by Senator Russ Feingold and Cong. John Conyers to move a modest censure resolution of Bush and Cheney for their many constitutional and statutory violations were aggressively rejected by their leaders—Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid. In January 2007, Pelosi and Reid two took impeachment off the table allowing the most chronically impeachable presidency in our history to continue undisturbed.

Some staffers in Congress privately assert that the Democrats are not acting like a majority party. It is worse than that. They are not acting—period.

From their majority status in 2007 to 2009 and a Democratic President in the White House, the Congressional Democrats are not moving swiftly to repeal the ban on Uncle Sam negotiating drug prices from volume discounts under the drug benefit law. They are not moving to amend the Patriot Act, regain control of warrantless surveillance, strengthen the corporate criminal laws and enforcement budgets. Congress is not even pushing to require taxing Hedge Fund manager’s income as ordinary income not as capital gains.

I cite these policies because they are policies much favored by many Democratic lawmakers. But in practice lawmakers duck and duck and duck from translating their beliefs into contentious action vis-à-vis the lobbyists and their captive legislators.

Senator Chris Dodd and the vast majority of the American people want to do something about credit card company abuses and gouges. But he is surrounded not just by the Republicans on the Senate Banking Committees but high-ranking Democrats beholden to the financial goliaths who, are demanding and receiving hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts.

There is word from the politicians that consideration of health care insurance—apart from a quickly enacted expansion of some coverage for more poor children—will be put off for a year. The trade unions’ top priority to enact labor law reforms, supported by Obama during his presidential campaign, are being held back by the Democrats.

There is even doubt whether the District of Columbia will get a voting Representative in the House when push comes to shove in the Senate.

The one-subject-at-a-time attitude is coming from the White House. “Obama doesn’t want it now” is a common phrase used by legislators to excuse themselves from exercising the separate but equal Congressional powers. This pretext applies to taking away some of the hugely expensive and unnecessary weapons systems like the F-22 aircraft decried by many military and retired military analysts. The vast, bloated military budget is sacrosanct on Capitol Hill as it is in the White House.

At a time of widely perceived needs for Congressional action, with large corporations busy applying for corporate welfare and on the defensive, the Democrats are not generating any momentum for standing for and with the people. Even in the midst of food contamination, illnesses and fatalities, they cannot turn around forty years of delay on giving the Food and Drug Administration adequate authority and inspectors to protect our food supply.

It is going to take a very focused civic jolt from you all to your Senators and Representatives. A couple of million jolters from our large country can get the train moving on the tracks. It doesn’t take much time to holler, yell or bellow with the facts.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Common Cause press release on first bailout

From the inbox:
The financial bailout: Your tax dollars gone missing

(BOSTON) The financial industry bailout was intended to help stem foreclosures, free up credit for consumers, and help local communities. What’s happened right here in our own backyards?

As CEOs from the largest banks that received bailout funds prepare to testify Wednesday in front of Congress, Common Cause is releasing a report describing how bank recipients of bailout funds have failed to increase lending to the residents of Massachusetts.

The Common Cause report, The financial bailout: Your tax dollars gone missing, calls on state and local political leaders to do more to hold banks accountable for helping local communities with the public tax dollars they have received.

“State and local government have a role to play during this financial crisis,” said Pam Wilmot Common Cause Massachusetts Executive Director. “Our local officials should also be holding both local banks and local branches of national banks accountable for how they are spending our tax money they received from the financial bailout.”

According to the Common Cause report, as the bailout money flowed to banks, their lending shrank. Loans from U.S. banks fell by 1 percent in the last three months of 2008, and the decline was more than twice as large among banks that received bailout money. At the same time, there were 53,797 foreclosure filings in Massachusetts during 2008. Some recipients of bailout money have spent billions on executive bonuses or lobbying expenses.

Common Cause has already heard from thousands of people with personal stories about how the bailout is not working for them and their neighbors, and with questions for their political leaders.

“We are in the midst of an historic economic crisis and we need to know our public dollars are being spent to help real people rather than supporting the lavish lifestyles of the very people that got us into this mess,” said Wilmot.

The report can be viewed at

Gregg out at Commerce ...

The Drudge Report is saying he is, with a flashing banner headline ... wow, this could get interesting.

Update: There is this from AP: ["GOP leaders criticize White House role in census"].

Update 2: Here is the statement, via Drudge:

For Immediate Release:
Thursday, February 12, 2009

Senator Gregg Statement on His Withdrawal for Consideration of U.S. Commerce Secretary

"I want to thank the President for nominating me to serve in his Cabinet as Secretary of Commerce. This was a great honor, and I had felt that I could bring some views and ideas that would assist him in governing during this difficult time. I especially admire his willingness to reach across the aisle.

However, it has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy.

Obviously the President requires a team that is fully supportive of all his initiatives.

I greatly admire President Obama and know our country will benefit from his leadership, but at this time I must withdraw my name from consideration for this position.

As we move forward, I expect there will be many issues and initiatives where I can and will work to assure the success of the President’s proposals. This will certainly be a goal of mine.

Kathy and I also want to specifically thank Governor Lynch and Bonnie Newman for their friendship and assistance during this period. In addition we wish to thank all the people, especially in New Hampshire, who have been so kind and generous in their supportive comments.

As a further matter of clarification, nothing about the vetting process played any role in this decision. I will continue to represent the people of New Hampshire in the United States Senate."

Hey Judd, that's assuming we still want you in the Senate "representing" us, right? Frankly, I think it is time for some "real" change to the Senate. Bring on the 2010!

Lynch makes budget cuts ....

Here is the latest on the state's budget mess: ["Lynch demands sweeping cuts in state spending"].
I'm beginning to wonder if it wouldn't be better to levy a statewide tax on liquor and then allow private stores to sell it via license, similar to packies in Massachusetts. The state would still reap the benefit of the sales but not have to pay all those employees to run the stores. Businesses currently selling beer and wine could apply for the right to sell liquor.
There are some great comments on the UL's Web site. Check out the one about the Verizon Wireless arena. I can't believe Manch is paying an annual $4-plus million interest bill on that thing, money that is going against the state's rooms and meals tax. What a disaster!
That said, this is all better than implementing a sales or income tax that many of us out here can't afford.

I can't believe I'm going to say this but ...

I'm beginning to wonder if society should have a conversation about what is acceptable and what isn't in regard to bearing children. I'm brought to this statement after seeing this headline on Yahoo: ["Taxpayers may have to cover octuplet mom's costs"].
In many ways, we all pay for children one way or another. We pay billions for education. Some people pay more taxes than others based on deductions for children by others, because the burden gets shifted. And, as a father who benefits from these deductions, I'm not making a judgment on whether or not this is bad. It is very good. We also do that with housing - home owners with interest get deductions; renters just trying to get by or hoping to eventually become homeowners do not.
But, at some point along the way, someone should have sat down with this woman, who has six other children, and said, You can't have eight more children! I don't know who should have done that or how it should have been done, or whether or not there should be laws against this, but it should have been done. Now that the children have been brought into the world, they must be cared for. But this is so offensive in so many ways, I just can't believe that any mother in the world would be so selfish as to do this.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

So, Yoon's record is thin after all

Or so says David Wedge at the Boston Herald: ["Sam Yoon’s council record thin"]. This is kinda funny, considering that I wrote that some of my friends have said he hasn't done much, and a whole bunch of progressives, with links to city hall, chastised me for it! Oh boy.
So, seriously, does anyone really think that he has a chance in hell of winning?

Oh this is great ...

A documentary about TV horror movie hosts:

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tax the speculators

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
Let’s start with a fairness point. Why should you pay a 5 to 6 percent sales tax for buying the necessities of life, when tomorrow, some speculator on Wall Street can buy $100 million worth of Exxon derivatives and not pay one penny in sales tax?

Let’s further add a point of common sense. The basic premise of taxation should be to first tax what society likes the least or dislikes the most, before it taxes honest labor or human needs.

In that way, revenues can be raised at the same time as the taxes discourage those activities which are least valued, such as the most speculative stock market trades, pollution (a carbon tax), gambling, and the addictive industries that sicken or destroy health and amass large costs.

So, your member of Congress, who is grappling these days with gigantic deficits on the backs of your children at the same time as that deep recession and tax cuts reduce revenues and increase torrents of red ink, should be championing such transaction taxes.

Yet apart from a small number of legislators, most notably Congressman Peter Welch (Dem. VT) and Peter DeFazio (Dem. OR), the biggest revenue producer of all — a tax on stock derivative transactions — essentially bets on bets — and other mystifying gambles by casino capitalism—is at best corridor talk on Capitol Hill.

There are differing estimates of how much such Wall Street transaction taxes can raise each year. A transaction tax would, however, certainly raise enough to make the Wall Street crooks and gamblers pay for their own Washington bailout. Lets scan some figures economists put forth.

The most discussed and popular one is a simple sales tax on currency trades across borders. Called the Tobin Tax after its originator, the late James Tobin, a Nobel laureate economist at Yale University, 10 to 25 cents per hundred dollars of the huge amounts of dollars traded each day across bordered would produce from $100 to $300 billion per year.

There are scores of civic, labor, environmental, development, poverty and law groups all over the world pressing for such laws in their countries. (see

According the University of Massachusetts economist, Robert Pollin, various kinds of securities-trading taxes are on the books in about forty countries, including Japan, the UK and Brazil.

Pollin writes in the current issue of the estimable Boston Review: “A small tax on all financial-market transactions, comparable to a sales tax, would raise the costs on short-term speculative trading while having negligible effect on people who trade infrequently. It would thus discourage speculation and channel funds toward productive investment.”
He adds that after the 1987 stock market crash, securities-trading taxes “or similar measures” were endorsed by then Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole and even the first President Bush. Professor Pollin estimates that a one-half of one percent tax would raise about $350 billion a year. That seems conservative. The Wall Street Journal once mentioned about $500 trillion in derivatives trades alone in 2008 — the most speculative of transactions. A one tenth of one percent tax would raise $500 billion dollars a year, assuming that level of trading.

Economist Dean Baker says a “modest financial transactions tax would be enough to “finance a 10% across-the-board reduction in the income tax on labor.

The stock transaction tax goes back a long way. A version helped fund the Civil War and the imperial Spanish-American War. The famous British economist, John Maynard Keynes, extolled in 1936 a securities transaction tax as having the effect of “mitigating the predominance of speculation over enterprise.” The U.S. had some kind of transaction tax from 1914 to 1966.

The corporate history scholar (read his excellent book, "Unequal Protection") Thom Hartmann, turned three-hour-a-day talk-show-host on Air America (, had discussed the long evolution of what he calls a “securities turnover excise tax” to “tamp down toxic speculation, while encouraging healthy investment.”

So, why don’t we have such a mega-revenue generator and lighten the income tax load on today and tomorrow’s American worker? (It was one of the most popular ideas I campaigned on last year. People got it.) Because American workers need to learn about this proposed tax policy and ram it through Congress. Tell your Senators and Representatives — no ifs, ands or buts. Otherwise, Wall Street will keep rampaging over people’s pensions and mutual fund savings, destabilize their jobs and hand them the bailout bill, as is occurring now.

A few minutes spent lobbying members of Congress by millions of Americans (call, write or e-mail, visit or picket) will produce one big Change for the better. Contact your member of Congress. The current financial mess makes this the right time for action.

Legislature to hold budget hearings around the state

The House Finance Committee will once again take the budget on the road, holding public hearings in three different sized and geographically situated communities during March.
Members of the Ways and Means Committee will also be sitting in on the hearings. In the New Hampshire House of Representatives, the Finance Committee deals with expenditures and Ways and Means deals with revenues.
"This method worked well two years ago," according to Finance Committee Chair Marjorie Smith."We decided to do it for the next budget, too. In these trying economic times, it can only help the average citizen to be able to talk with us directly. We want to hear from the people who use state services, especially because we make decisions that have an impact on their lives. This is an opportunity for us to hear from those other than lobbyists and people who can get to Concord for other hearings."
The Legislature is required to plan a two-year budget well in advance of its actually going into place. For example, the current budget for 2009 runs from July 2008 to the end of June 2009 and was planned and put into place in the spring of 2007.
The public is encouraged and invited to attend the hearings. Information will be provided at each making it simple for residents to testify before the committee.
The public hearings are scheduled as follows:
• SALEM, Monday, March 9, at 6 p.m., in the Media Center at Salem High School, 44 Geremonty Drive.
• CLAREMONT, Thursday, March 12, at 6 p.m. at the River Valley Community College, One College Drive.
• WHITEFIELD, Monday, March 16, at 6 p.m., at White Mountains Regional High School Auditorium, 127 Regional Road.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The power of radio ...

Howie Carr ... not a bad guy, as Jerry Williams used to say: ["Distraught woman’s cry for help heard by Howie Carr"].
I'm heading to the New England Press Association convention today and tomorrow, plus the awards banquet tomorrow night. So, they'll be limited posting until the end of the weekend when I'll catch up on some headlines.
However, I will say this: My co-worker Cassie Norton, the reporter of the Belmont Citizen-Herald, and I have won a NEPA Award this year for government reporting. We don't know which entry yet or what place, only that we've won something. I haven't been able to tell anyone for months but since it is only tomorrow, why not leak it? I can hardly wait to see the entry on the wall for all to see!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tony on the radio Thursday ....

Well it's been a while but I'll be back on the air on Thursday, Feb. 5, for a couple of hours.
From 2 to 4 p.m., I'll be sitting in for two hours of talk radio with Chuck Morse on his new radio show on WBNW 1120 AM. The signal runs from Boston to Worcester, Nashua, N.H. to Brockton. The show is also heard on WPLM 1390 in Plymouth and WESO 970 in Southbridge/Webster.
To listen online, click here: ["WBNW"].
The call-in number is 888-205-2263. Feel free to chime in.
Chuck's show runs the gamut from politics, religion, economics, and foreign affairs, with a very traditional conservative bent. I don't know what the topics will be exactly but it will definitely be lively, since we have a tendency to go at it pretty good. I hope you can tune in.

Another friggin' snowstorm on deadline!

Arrgh!!! Oh boy ...

What a weird (political) day ...

First, Obama nominates Judd Gregg to Commerce: ["Judd Gregg to head Commerce Department"]. I have really mixed feelings about this but I don't have the time to get into it ...
Then Sen. Feingold gets into the mix: ["Feingold Calls for Constitutional Change to Senate Appointment Following Gregg Nomination"]. Good ole Russ ... raising hell ...
And Rep. Paul Hodes jumps into the 2010 race: ["Rep. Paul Hodes to seek Gregg's Senate seat"]. Shea Porter is also interested but isn't going to jump in yet. I wonder what the means for Katrina Swett, Steve Marchaud, that astronaut from Hanover, whose name is slipping me at the moment, who have all been waiting their turn to run ...
Later, Tom Daschle drops out of HHS contention: ["Tom Daschle Withdraws As Health Nominee"]. What a disaster he would have been. Thank goodness he is out.
And then, this other nominee drops out too: ["Citing Tax Troubles, an Obama Appointee Withdraws"]. I don't know this woman but let me ask this: What's with these people and their taxes? What a weird day ...

And then, it gets even weirder!! ... ["Gregg Voted to Kill Commerce Before He Agreed to Lead It"].

Sunday, February 1, 2009

R.I.P. Marshall Cobleigh

From yesterday's news alert: ["Former state House speaker Marshall Cobleigh dies at 78"]. I interviewed Cobleigh when his very interesting book came out. I also ran into him on N.H. primary eve, 2008, at a bar in Manch. We all talked shop for about an hour or so and it was great fun. R.I.P.

Morse gets new afternoon show

From the inbox:

Chuck Morse, one of the most conservative and controversial radio talk show hosts in the Northeast market, has opened the microphones for “Talking With Chuck and Phil” weekdays at WBNW, a business and finance station at 1120 AM reaching professionals in the Boston market.

Morse has been named one of the top 100 radio show hosts by Talkers Magazine, the industry’s trade publication, and his show promotes conservative causes in the most liberal political enclave in America.

“I am proud to work alongside WBNW’s Barry Armstrong, host of “Money Matters” and to have as co-host my colleague Phil Keon,” Morse said. “Our program will focus on political, social and cultural issues in the news, and we are looking forward to inviting prominent Boston area newsmakers, businessmen, academics, media experts and conservative intellectuals,” Morse said.

“Talking With Chuck and Phil” will air Monday through Friday from 2-4 p.m. The show is simulcast on WPLM, Plymouth and WESO, Southbridge and "Chuck Morse Today" a one-minute news commentary written and delivered by Morse broadcasts daily and is syndicated to radio stations across the nation.

Morse was the 2004 Republican nominee for Congress in the Fourth District, which stretches from Brookline to the Rhode Island border. He is the author of several books espousing conservative philosophies and is widely sought as a speaker at forums and debates throughout the region.

“This is a very exciting time for conservatives across America,” Morse said. “The Obama administration follies have already offended many Americans, and Republicans are sharpening their message in preparation for the 2010 mid-term Congressional elections.”