Monday, June 29, 2009

Consumer Reports doesn't recommend Honda Insight

This is interesting: ["Honda's new hybrid disappoints"].
No surprise. I already suggested it was iffy. And 38 mpg? Wow! I beat that with my Civic ... when I drive at a reasonable speed.

Congrats Murrow winners!

The RTNDA released its 2009 Edward R. Murrow Awards. WMUR-TV 9 in Manchester won for newscast. WGBH-TV 2 in Boston and NECN also won awards: ["2009 National Winners"]. Congratulations!

Oh wow, what a huge story!

["How a Loophole Benefits GE in Bank Rescue"]. The subhead? "Industrial Giant Becomes Top Recipient in Debt-Guarantee Program" ...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I had forgotten how much I love this song

Furs tour dates released

Burned Down Days sent out an email last week with the national tour dates for the Psychedelic Furs. Openers are Crappy [Happy] Mondays and Islands [at least in Boston]. Here are the dates:


Sept 08 / CHICAGO, IL / House of Blues
Sept 09 / MILWAUKEE, WI / Pabst Theatre
Sept 11 / BOULDER, CO / Boulder Theater
Sept 12 / SALT LAKE CITY, UT / In The Venue
Sept 14 / SEATTLE, WA / Moore Theatre
Sept 15 / PORTLAND, OR / Crystal Ballroom
Sept 17 / SAN FRANCISCO, CA / Grand Ballroom
Sept 18 / LOS ANGELES, CA / Club Nokia
Sept 19 / ANAHEIM, CA / House of Blues
Sept 20 / SAN DIEGO, CA / House of Blues
Sept 22 / LAS VEGAS, NV / House of Blues
Sept 24 / AUSTIN, TX / Stubb's
Sept 25 / DALLAS, TX / House of Blues
Sept 26 / HOUSTON, TX / House of Blues
Sept 28 / ST PETERSBURG, FL / Ritz
Sept 29 / FT LAUDERDALE, FL / Revolution
Sept 30 / ORLANDO, FL / House of Blues
Oct 02 / ATLANTA, GA / Masquerade
Oct 03 / CHARLOTTE, NC / Amos' Southend
Oct 04 / NORFOLK, VA / NorVa
Oct 06 / WASHINGTON, DC / 9:30
Oct 07 / PHILADELPHIA, PA / Trocadero
Oct 09 / NEW YORK, NY / Roseland Ballroom
Oct 10 / BOSTON, MA / House of Blues
Oct 12 / COLUMBUS, OH / Newport Music Hall
Oct 13 / DETROIT, MI / Royal Oak Music Theatre
Oct 14 / TORONTO, ON / Koolhaus
Oct 15 / MONTREAL, QU / Olympia de Montreal

After seeing them at the Tupelo in a mixed show [I still haven't had the chance to post the review but I hope to get to it soon], I will probably pass on the Boston show.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Financial reform, words and deeds

Guest Perspective/Ralph Nader
It’s good that Barack Obama is an agile basketball player because on financial regulatory reform he’s having to straddle an ever widening chasm between his words and his deeds.

Obama said: “Millions of Americans who have worked hard and behaved responsibility have seen their life dreams eroded by the irresponsibility of others and by the failure of their government to provide adequate oversight. Our entire economy has been undermined by that failure.”

“Over the past two decades, we have seen, time and again, cycles of precipitous booms and busts. In each case, millions of people have had their lives profoundly disrupted by developments in the financial system, most severely in our recent crisis.”

Strong words, even though he didn’t include “corporate crime, fraud and abuse” to replace the euphemism “irresponsibility.” One would think that his 88 page reform proposal to Congress would be up to his words. Instead he provides Washington aspirins for Wall Street brain cancer.

The anemic nature of these reforms ostensibly designed to prevent or deter another big bust on Wall Street and its hostage grip on the nation’s savings and investments immediately drew the ire of well-regarded business columnists.

Joe Nocera of the New York Times wrote the “the Obama plan is little more than an attempt to stick some new regulatory fingers into a very leaky financial dam rather than rebuild the dam itself.” Nocera asserts that the reforms do not “attempt to diminish the use” of the customized type of derivatives which trillions of risky dollars generated “enormous damage to the financial system” ala A.I.G’s collapse. He notes President Roosevelt’s far more fundamental reforms, included the Glass-Steagall Act, which “separated banking from investment.” It prevented a lot of banking mischief until Clinton, his Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Citigroup got Glass-Steagall repealed in 1999. Obama is not proposing to re-instate this critical safeguard. Nocera said, firms “will have to put up a little more capital, and deal with a little more oversight, but….in all likelihood, [it will] “be back to business as usual.”

Star business reporter, Gretchen Morgenson, ripped into the Obama plan in the Sunday New York Times for doing too little to eliminate systemic risks posed by financial firms that are “too big to fail.” “Rather than propose ways to shrink these companies and the risks they pose, the Geithner plan argues instead for enhanced regulatory oversight of the behemoths.” She implies that taxpayers will be on the hook for even greater bailouts in the future.

A measure to prevent the “too big to fail” bailouts was suggested by none other than Obama’s current economic advisor, former Federal Reserve Chairman, Paul Volcker. Speaking in China, no less, Volcker recently said the Federal government could simply prevent these big banks from trading for their own accounts. But Obama is not listening to Volcker these days. Instead Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House advisor, Larry Summers, who played important roles in the past decade facilitating the enormous speculation on Wall Street, have got Obama’s ear.

The President’s plan omits, (1) strong antitrust enforcement, (2) tough corporate crime prosecution, and (3) more authority for shareholders, who own their companies, to control their hired bosses. The plan should have included giving shareholders the decisive power to set executive compensation—the perverse compensation incentives helped push companies to wild speculation.

The reform plan’s defaults go on and on. There are no mechanisms to encourage millions of investors to band together in Financial Consumer Associations. In 1985 then Cong. Chuck Schumer (Dem. NY) introduced such an amendment to the savings and loans bailout legislation. It did not pass.

What about sub-prime mortgage securities? Banks would be required to retain just a five percent stake before handing them off to other syndicates. This hardly is enough to induce prudence by banks selling these mortgages to impecunious home buyers.

Obama does propose a new financial consumer regulatory agency. But unless he appoints someone, as chair, like tough-minded Harvard Law Professor, Elizabeth Warren, who advanced the idea, the regulated financial firms will, as usual, take over the agency.

The Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein, derided the Obama proposals for not being “grounded, first and foremost, in a thorough and independent analysis of how the crisis was allowed to develop and what regulators did and didn’t do to prevent it….” He was disappointed by the lack of controls over “hedge funds, private-equity funds or structured investment vehicles.”

Obama did strengthen the fiduciary duties to investors by stock brokers. But he did not give these defrauded investors any better civil action rights in court beyond what they were left with by the hand-tying securities law passed in 1995.

So now it is up to Congress and its hordes of banking and insurance lobbyists. Good luck, savers and investors. Unless that is, you’re doing your business with credit union cooperatives which don’t gamble with your money.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mixed feelings on health care reform

Over the years, I have had mixed feelings about health care reform, from being a solid advocate of Canadian-style single payer, to questioning that position, to wondering about some sort of hybrid position, to now, again, thinking we should have Medicare for all.
A couple of weeks ago, the relatively moderate publisher of the Hippo, Jody Reese, came out for Medicare for all in the column and I have to admit that this is where I'm heading too: ["Publisher's Note: Health care solution"].
In the current debate in Washington over health care reform, the single-payer/Medicare for all option seems to be completely out of the discussion. And that's too bad. The simple fact is that shaving the profit motive of insurance carriers, HMOs, and PPOs, is the only way to control costs and cover everyone without more, substantially larger, taxes.
In essence, as Reese notes in his column, most people with private or employer-backed insurance, will just transfer their payments from the private insurance to the government. Other workers who don't have insurance but can't afford the private plans will pay a little bit out of pocket and get something in return. In many cases, like mine, I will have a better deal and the same coverage by making this change, since the PPO plan my company has is too expensive, has too many co-pays and deductibles, or simply put, just plain sucks.
In addition, the drive of the economy recovering is going to be small business, very small business, and entrepreneurs, as Reese notes. Most of these folks can't afford the private insurance. A Medicare for all plan will cost much less while delivering more. Moving away employer monies from health care to investment in the actual business will create more jobs and speed the recovery.
Sure, all those people in private insurance will be out of work. But they will get picked up along the way doing other things like the people who used to make buggy whips and now do, to take a phony argument from the free trade cultists.
One of the other things that really keeps me from fully supporting single-payer/Medicare for all is the fact that we, as a nation, are just not very good at preventive care. Some people presume that this is because we don't have nationalized insurance like they do in Canada, England ... hell, even Costa Rica has it. Some think it is the overwhelming influence of advertising in our lives. Some think it is education - do they still have home economics in school? Some think it is just bad parenting.
I think it is probably a combination of all those things. While I'm not in the best of shape, I cringe every time I see some extremely obese person walking along, with their fat flab hanging over their shorts, lumbering along like Jabba the Hut, thinking, if we had single-payer, that person would be draining away tons of money because they can't control themselves. I think the same thing when I see a person chain-smoking or abusing alcohol.
This is why so many lawmakers want sin taxes on alcohol, smoking, and even, sugar-based products. The problem with these taxes is that they are going into the general fund of most governments and not into health care. One would have to wonder, if all the taxes on these products went straight to health care, would we even be paying a dime out of our paychecks for basic care? Probably not.
In the end, I don't have the answers to this problem but I do know that what is happening in private insurance is an abomination and I do know that the current plans being discussed in D.C. are just not good enough. Health care reform can't occur until there is regulation, control, and restraint of profitable companies who are keeping insurance from being affordable to a good chunk of Americans. And that's why, in the end, like everything else, there will be no real health care reform at all.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

July 2009 Top 30 Chart

July 2009 Top 30 Chart

1. Passion Pit – Manners
2. Animal Hospital – Memory
3. Ian Adams – Stay Up Late
4. Taxpayer – Don’t Steal My Night Vision
5. Big D & The Kids Table – Fluent in Stroll
6. Hallelujah the Hills – “Blank Passports”
7. Muck & the Mires – Hypnotic
8. The New Collisions – The New Collisions
9. Annie and the Beekeepers – Squid Hell Sessions EP
10. Boy in Static – Candy Cigarette
11. Me and Joan Collins – love trust faith lust
12. Girls Guns and Glory – Inverted Valentine
13. Hooray for Earth – Cellphone EP
14. Blackbutton – Blackbutton
15. The Bynars – Back From Outer Space
16. The Everyday Visuals – The Everyday Visuals
17. Thick Shakes – Ooh Mommy
18. Wheat – White Ink, Black Ink
19. Leo Blais – “Slow Drivin’”
20. The Blizzard of 78 – Book of Lies
21. Have Nots – Serf City USA
22. Keep Me Conscious – Sounds of Rescue
23. Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles – The Stars Are Out
24. The Steamy Bohemians – Technicolor Radio
25. Sarah Rabdau & Self Employed Assassins – Sarah Rabdau & Self Employed Assassins
26. Yes Giantess – “You Were Young”
27. Lake Champagne – “Cupcake”
28. Thick as Thieves – RX EP
29. Hands and Knees – Et tu, Fluffy?
30. Apple Betty – Streakin’ Cross the Sky

Two press releases about employment and drugs

A couple more interesting press releases worthy of republication:

Government Spends $468 Billion on Drug Abuse Costs

According to a recent report released by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) drug and alcohol use and addiction cost local, state and federal governments around $467.7 billion in 2005.
The new 287 page report entitled Shoveling Up II: The Impact of Substance Abuse on the Federal, State and Local Budgets, found that 96.5% of those funds or $357.4 billion went to handle the negative consequences of addiction including crime, homelessness, child abuse and welfare, and healthcare costs, to name a few.
But the biggest surprise is that only 1.9% of the funds went to drug rehab with even the Chairman of CASA agreeing that there has been a major shortage of appropriations to the right resources.
In the Chairman’s Statement, Joseph A. Califano Jr. announced that, “Under any circumstances spending more than 95 percent of taxpayer dollars on the consequences of tobacco, alcohol and other drug abuse and addiction and less than two percent to relieve individuals and taxpayers of this burden would be considered a reckless misallocation of public funds.” He then went on to say, “In these economic times, such upside-down-cake public policy is unconscionable.”
And Mr. Califano is not the only one who can see that there has been a major problem in regards to substance abuse spending in our country. Politicians, private and public sector leaders are promoting the fiscal viability of effective drug rehabilitation programs. Erica Catton, Director of Public Services for Narconon Eastern U.S. agrees that the only way to fully handle addiction is through successful drug rehab practices. Having spent the last 8 years helping communities and families handle drug addiction, Mrs. Catton says, “Cleaning up the mess that addiction causes without rehabilitating the individual will only create a bigger problem. Without effective treatment available, they will continue to create problems for themselves, their family and those around them. When you actually rehabilitate them through effective treatment, they will begin to clean up their own lives and the problems that they so often cause. The key is improving their abilities to handle life so they are no longer being controlled by their addiction.”
Since 1995 the Narconon program has graduated more than 25,000 addicts worldwide. The program has an average success rate of more than 70% for permanent sobriety. Narconon’s proven long-term social education model emphasizes handling both the mental and physical aspects of drug addiction with a focus on getting the addict back to being a sober and contributing member of society.
Effective drug rehabilitation is the main priority that local and federal governments will have to take up if they want to cut the huge costs created by addicts left on the community streets with no treatment options.
If you or someone you know is in need of an effective drug rehab program contact Narconon today at 877-362-9682 or log onto

People Don’t Want to Work in Large Companies

Madbury, N.H. - Few people today want to work at large organizations, those with 10,000 or more employees.

When asked what size organization they would prefer to work for given today’s economy, the majority (71%) of business leaders chose a medium or small organization, according to a worldwide survey of senior executives and managers conducted by NFI Research.

Forty percent say they would rather work in a medium organization while 31 percent chose a small organization. Only 14 percent prefer a large company.

When asked what factors are most important when it comes to staying with an organization, three quarters of senior executives and managers say compensation. After compensation, senior executives and managers say confidence in leadership (73%) and autonomy or challenge (70%) are the other most important factors.

“Given the economic downturn, it appears compensation is at the forefront of people’s minds,” said Chuck Martin, CEO of NFI Research and author of SMARTS (Are We Hardwired for Success?)

More senior executives than managers would prefer to work for a small organization, based on the survey of 156 executives and managers.

Given today’s economic climate, 45 percent of senior executives say they would like to work in a small organization while almost half (49%) of managers would rather work in a medium-sized company.

The three least important reasons for staying with an organization are lack of other opportunities (6%), education (13%), and vacation time (17%).

“There are far too many companies, and leaders at those companies, that lose sight of taking care of their top performers in a down economy like the one we are in,” says one respondent. “They do not realize or think about the fact that top performers are still heavily sought after in such an economy, and will look to leave if they believe their current employer is not taking care of them.”

NFI Research surveys 2,000 senior executives and managers globally every two weeks. It has chronicled the transformation of business and countless workplace issues for more than nine years. NFI's Chairman and CEO Chuck Martin is a best-selling author of seven business books and frequently presents NFI's findings to businesses. Martin also teaches at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire, where he teaches Consumer Buying Behavior and Marketing Research.

Chuck Martin is the author of the best-selling book "SMARTS (Are We Hardwired for Success?)" (AMACOM/American Management Association).

Chuck Martin is working on a new book dealing with high performing individuals. It is slated to be published by AMACOM/American Management Association.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Working With His Hands

Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader
Although his classic self-designed and hand-built furniture found its way to the White House, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian, Sam Maloof, who passed away recently at 93, preferred to describe himself simply as a “Woodworker.”

Completely self-taught, after he served in the Army during World War II, Mr. Maloof became one of the premier woodworkers and designers in the country. His bustling home, workplace and Discovery Garden spread over six acres in Alta Loma, California, draws visiting artisans, high school woodworking classes and gardeners learning about multiple uses from near and far.

Born in a family of nine children of Lebanese immigrants, Sam Maloof had the character traits of authenticity, elegance, consistency and creativity. He was dedicated to constantly refining his chairs, tables, desks, cabinets and his famous rocking chair. For about 20 years, he made no profit. Now his chairs sell for $20,000 or more each.

As he progressed, his horizons extended into what is now a veritable movement ensconced in the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts. (

A measure of the man’s spirit is reflected in these words about his work:

“Craftsmen in any media know the satisfaction that comes in designing and making an object from raw material. Mine comes from working in wood. Once you have breathed, smelled, and tasted the tanginess of wood and have handled it in the process of giving it form, there is nothing, I believe, that can replace the complete satisfaction granted. Working a rough piece of wood into a complete, useful object is the welding together of man and material.”

The exquisite manual workmanship of Mr. Maloof is further stimulating the questioning of the remoteness that modern technology visits on so many people who spend hours in virtual reality, separated from nature and its materials. Our country was built by craftsmen, artisans and other workers who designed and made real things. High Schools offered Shop Class, where students learned skills and the joy of creating. These classes opened doors to a source of livelihood - and pride - for budding artisans.

With the nineteenth century industrial revolution and mass production employing masses of workers, these independent craftsmen tried to remain independent contractors and not become what they called “wage slaves” in giant, often dangerous, factories.

Jeremy Adamson, who organized an exhibition of Mr. Maloof’s work in 2001 at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, remarked that Maloof was a “beacon for woodworkers around the world. That furniture will last forever.” The Master used no nails or metal hardware. The designs evolved as he worked. Clearly he possessed stunning visualization capacities. Imagine, he fit the chairs to the human bodies. “You can’t help but stroke the darn things,” Mr. Adamson added.
Starting in 1952 with a small house in a citrus grove at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, Mr. Maloof added 16 additional rooms branded with his unique use of woods, shapes and function.

In a new book titled Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford, the author bemoaned the closing at high schools all over the United States of shop classes that taught the mechanical arts like carpentry, woodworking, welding and other skills. They were closed to allow more funding of computer labs. And because our throw-away society no longer properly values the fruits of artisan labor.

Crawford goes on to argue and demonstrate what our society loses when we make joining the “paper economy” the chief aspiration of the younger generations or to use Robert Reich’s phrase to become “symbolic analysts.” Somebody has to keep the real world running maintained, repaired and replaced - something we realize very quickly when things don’t work in our households.

The draining of gratification from work in a techno-computerized environment is a widespread condition for millions of people, apart from the automated severance of their judgment and discretion by command and control positions.

Sam Maloof and his wife Barbara prepared his legacy meticulously. His philosophy and nature-related work increasingly steeped in sustainable practices will continue through his many students, trained practitioners and emulators.

He always found a way to wrap his zest in a few personal words. “I hope,” he once said, “that my happiness with what I do is reflected in my furniture…that it is vibrant, alive, and friendly to the people who use it.”

Sam Maloof steadfastly looked ahead. Maybe this is why, in spite of clients waiting years for delivery, he would jump to the head of the line those parents who wanted a cradle for their infants.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Letting my TV go dark

Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader
At noon on June 12, the end of analog television’s era was also when I let my set go dark. The last declaration I saw was that there were about 3 million of us disconnected but, no worry, we can still order the “converter box” to bring all those programs back to our living rooms.
Going dark on TV was not that hard at least for a while. My recent memories had too many “yuks” and too few “harks”.
President John F. Kennedy’s chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Newton Minow, shocked a broadcast industry audience when he called television a “vast wasteland.” That was in 1961!
Had he not mellowed as a corporate lawyer with a lucrative practice, what would Newton Minow say today? What is the superlative of “vast wasteland”?
Television today - over the air and cable - with the usual exceptions, could empty the dictionary of disparaging adjectives. Some times slots - such as daily afternoon talk-entertainment shows - are so bad, so sadomasochistic and exploitive, that they escape the media critics. Why would Tom Shales—the insightful Washington Post critic who writes like a dream - want to apply his talented eye to shows that invoke the Latin phrase “res ipsa louitur”: the thing speaks for itself?
On weekends, the shows swing from the slick infomercials, pushing cutlery and real estate wealth, to sports that become duller play by play - especially golf - to the Sunday morning news program where evasions of predictable questions run on and on.
Then there are the second-rate movie reruns, the insipid sitcom shows, so dependent on canned laughter, the dramas, so spilt-second violent that they eliminate any kind of memorable suspense.
The early and late local evening news needs psychoanalysts. Repetition may be economical for it requires fewer reporters.
The thirty minutes of the late local news is composed of roughly nine minutes of ads, four minutes of sports, four obsessive minutes of four weather segments, the usual openings with street crimes or fires, the customary animal story and half minute of contrived, spontaneous chit-chat between the anchors and the rest - the abbreviated rest - is what can be called news.
One local DC station once had the temerity to try vainly distinguishing itself from the sameness of its competitors by the slogan “no chit chat, no fluff”.
So little time is left for news that most news is not covered - not in the neighborhoods, not in city hall or the courts, not in business, labor, schools, or civic activity or achievement.
Missing so much reality by allocating lots of time for local news and wasting so much of it takes the label of those “Reality Shows” to the level of ironic satire.
How much reality would there be without C-Span - that lonely tribute to the public intellect and engagement? Over 90 percent of television is entertainment or advertisements - mostly low grade even for those willing to inhabit bad taste.
I just saw an auto ad on the news for Kia with hamsters driving and occupying the front seat.
The public air waves belong to the people. They are the owners and the television stations are the tenants. Guess what? Since the beginning of television broadcasting, these lucrative stations have paid no rent. It is a rent free way to mint money under the guidance of a supine Federal Communications Commission and a Congress frightened of the power of the broadcast industry.
Gone are the regulatory expressions of the 1934 statutory standard - namely “the public interest, convenience and necessity” - binding television stations to a level of public responsibility.
Gone is the worthy requirement for each station to ascertain the public’s information needs in an annual public report to the FCC. There is no more fairness doctrine or right of reply. FCC station license renewals proceedings are not as frequent as they were thirty years ago.
Some valuable shows manage to get through the “vast wasteland” and make money. Among them are "60 Minutes" (CBS) and "The Simpsons" (FOX). Non-profit public television has "The Bill Moyers Journal." The nature and history shows on some cable channels bear occasional attention.
By and large, however, getting through the noise, hoping to find snippets of interest in otherwise flat and formulaic programs, and having to endure the densely-packed relentless advertisements and product placements, and not knowing whether a news segment is canned from an industry consultant, invites a vacation from an already limited resort to my TV.
There are so many other things to do and learn and evoke than watching screens.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gone fishin' ...

Posting at is going to be limited for the next week or so as I take some time off. In fact, since my reporter at work just gave her notice and won't be working with me after next week, there might be even less posting than usual. We'll see how things pan out in July.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More things to read ...

Here are some things worth checking out ...

First, James Pindell has unveiled a new New Hampshire political site, ["NH Political Report"].

Greg Palast and Ralph Nader have some pretty good overviews of the terrible situation over at General Motors: ["Grand Theft Auto: How Stevie the Rat bankrupted GM"] and ["Ralph Nader on Democracy Now on Tuesday, June 2nd"].

Uh-oh, a journalist who hasn't drunk the social networking Kool-Aid?: ["Twitter poses risks for papers"].

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Furs in my life, live ...

Here is the long-awaited overview of live Psychedelic Furs shows. I can't wait to see the band tonight.
So, how many times have I seen the Furs? I’m not sure exactly. It gets to be blurry after a while. But I think with this tour, they'll surpass Echo & the Bunnymen and local Boston bands, as the band I have seen most.
It was July 1984 when I would first see the Psychedelic Furs at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston, with my still-friend Donna and this guy she liked at the time named John. We had great seats about 15 or 20 rows from the stage on the left-hand side of the theatre. Talk Talk opened, and they were good too. They had this acoustic guitar player jumping all over the place - around the stage, off the speakers - until he landed right on his backside, cracking up the entire crowd. We speculated that he was a sideman trying to show off to get some.
When the Furs hit the stage I remember thinking just how full they sounded as they attempted to reproduce the sound of their four records. Richard Butler sounded gritty yet wispy singing but fell flat when the band kicked into the chorus of its new single, "The Ghost in You." I can still hear it in my skull now, almost as if they dropped the chorus down a notch because he couldn't hit the high note which is so brilliantly mixed in layers on the recorded version. I remember Donna and me gasping in horror but later, as I would develop my own music, understanding the nuances of striking a number of bad vocal notes over the years...
In the summer of 1986, the Psychedelic Furs launched a short arena tour. Originally, they were slated to play in August at Great Woods outside of Boston, but the gig was cancelled due to rain. This show was in late September, so there was a slight chill in the air.
The band was incredible but Butler seemed to be losing his voice. The band was doing its best to compensate, not playing songs that would be too difficult. The new songs, eventually released on “Midnight to Midnight,” were unknown to everyone. But they were danceable and kinda ran together, along the lines of “Heartbeat.” Having not heard the recorded versions, it was difficult to cast an opinion. They played a slew of older songs like “Into You Like a Train” and “Sister Europe,” with a sloppy version of “India.”

In early 1987 when I found out the Furs were going to play the Worcester Centrum, a 12,000 seat arena, I couldn’t believe it. At first, my friend Leo and I were going to go but then, I forgot to pick up my tickets at the ticket agency [Out of Town News in Harvard Square] and they cancelled my order. Since the Furs were huge, I decided not to go, since I assumed we wouldn’t get good seats. However, at the last minute decision to go yielded seats just off to the left of the stage, up a couple of rows. Here’s what I wrote:
They have sharpened themselves and are now a biting band. My love for this band is more important to me than the age of the crowd at the show (I was part of the older generation, mostly young Molly Ringwald tarts but a few diehards like myself) and to my surprise, they played a nice collection of songs from the last three albums and some classic oldies including “Sister Europe,” “Pretty in Pink,” and “Mr. Jones.” The set also included some album cuts very rarely played live by the Furs including “Only You and I” and “No Easy Street.” Butler was at his sexual height, rolling around, groveling at the crowd like a vicious hot cat. Mmm, yeah! The show was full of energy; the band sounded good. The second guitarist, Marty Williamson, took a great solo on “One More Word.” Mars Williams, relax sax man, was toking them out, belting melodies everywhere and John Ashton was his usual lush self, stumbling about, cranking them out. On “All of the Law,” he was spectacular; the opening line riff is too much. Better than the Great Woods show of last year and now a top notch, top form band. I was having a blast and then, the encore came with an atrocious version of “Heartbreak Beat” … but the younger crowd went nuts. Ah, youth! They did “Shock” and “President Gas,” which was good, and a second encore not including “India,” the last time they played it, it was terrible. Everyone must grow up sometime and the Furs have. They did and I love them for it because they did it their way! Good times and I’m sure many more!
I was lucky enough to see the Furs twice on the “Book of Days” tour – in Boston in November 1989 and again in Miami, in April 1990.
The Boston show was a good one; with the exception of the horrible security guards who wouldn’t let anyone dance or even stand up during the show. The band was incredible and put together the best show ever in Boston. Here’s what I wrote:
Gone were the prepubescent Molly Ringwald clones, gone were the flashy light show and pretentious pantomiming of its lead singer. Gone was the slick, dance rock flash that made them stars to the MTV generation. It was the return of the raw edge Furs of yesterday. It was a welcome change.
Our weathered troupe hit the state with an intense attack, wall of feedback in tow, they launched into “Into You Like a Train” and “It Goes On” from “Talk, Talk, Talk.” The Furs then picked out lost strands from their repertoire … songs they hadn’t played in many years [“We Love You,” “No Tears,” “Imitation of Christ,” and “Goodbye”] and others from their very personal, very dark new album “Book of Days.” Of the new tunes, “Shine” did just that, “Entertain Me,” and “Should God Forget,” roared with blank melodies and blasting guitars.
What a change and so much more impressive than playing a warhorse like “Pretty in Pink.” Also missing from the set was “Midnight to Midnight,” the whole album and all of “Mirror Moves” except for “Heaven,” which got the ho-hum crowd to its feet but it was way too late in the set.
Acoustic cello on “Torch” and “Sleep Comes Down” livened up the sound and a biting version of “All That Money Wants,” acoustic guitar in tow.
The Miami show was good but not as powerful as the Boston show. I assumed it was because of the heat. But the newly returned Vince Ely was off on a few songs. Singer Richard Butler was touching fans and dancing around. They played “High Wire Days” and “Here Come Cowboys,” along with “Forever Now,” “President Gas,” and “No Easy Street,” but the set was hampered by a lack of energy and poorly drawn set list. They surged at times; drowned at others.

For the “World Outside” tour, the Furs played much smaller theatres. In Boston, the band played the Paradise [less than 700 capacity]. At the time I wrote, “the environment proved to be exciting and challenging for the band.”
After a shaky, plodding opener (the usually strong “Heaven”), the band gained footing and shined. Songs from the mediocre new CD, “World Outside,” proved better on the small state: “Valentine,” “In My Head,” and “Sometimes,” held their own against classics such as “Only You and I,” “She Is Mine,” “Run, Run, Run,” and the colossal “Dumb Waiters.” Even the hits sounded fresh: “Love My Way” tranced along as did “Pretty in Pink” and the much missed “The Ghost In You,” which they haven’t done around here since 1984! The guitars roared as did the new drummer playing well along with the new sequenced material. The weakest point here was the keyboardist who plunked along with bad patches and played no songs from their brilliant last album “Book of Days.” Too bad, since that’s been their strongest effort in years.
The Furs would take nearly a decade off but later, reformed to seemingly cash in, for lack of a better term, on the nostalgia that many Gen-Xers now seek [Not unlike, in some ways, the things their parents searched before them]. Between the summer of 2000 and fall of 2001, the Furs would play Boston three times and later, Burlington, Vermont, of all places, in 2005. The 2000 to 2001 shows seemed to have, from memory, the same playlists, a string of hits and maybe a new song, or, just about everything that fans would expect for their $20 to $30 [the band would also be honored by the Mass. Legislature, at the prompting of long-time fan, Rep. Kevin Honan]. I particularly remember the show opening for the B-52s and the Go-Go’s to be quite good. The other thing I noticed in that string of shows was that the band matured and played better than ever before and Butler, who was not the best of singers, had actually become a pretty decent singer. The distinct voice is still there but the shakiness is totally gone [Check out Butler’s recent solo album if you don’t believe he can sing].

But what would the ultimate set list be?

It’s hard to say. For a long time fan like me, ideally it would be all those obscure or album tracks you never [or rarely] hear live … “House,” “In My Head,” “Only You and I,” “Highwire Days,” etc. … along with a smattering of hits like, “Heaven” and “Love My Way.” It’s hard to say what we’ll hear on this tour but Butler told the Nashua Telegraph on June 4 that the band would be playing songs they had never played live before. That will be interesting to hear.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Press releases I get ...

Here is another edition of press releases I get. These make for some interesting reading but it wouldn't necessarily be something I would post at work.

First, an update from the National Priorities Project, asking for money:

These are extraordinary times.

NPP is buzzing with research and new publications, connecting with diverse communities and forging groundbreaking communications work.
Every week an activist or national organization says to us “You are our 'go to' resource for accurate budget information...No one does this work better than you do.” Our work has never been more important. And, we need your help to continue.
NPP provides concrete tools to individuals and organizations across the U.S. working for social and economic justice. Our research and materials make their work more powerful and effective.

Since the fall we've released seven major reports. Each highlights the local impact of federal spending for the issue it addresses. Find the reports at
In the next few weeks – with the help of a host of national colleagues – we will issue a Security Spending Primer, an innovative tool dedicated to expanding our nation's understanding of national security while building widespread capacity to tackle military spending. It's time.

Networking and Training is building lasting relationships with grassroots organizations across the country, largely in communities of color. This work is dedicated to systemic and lasting priorities shifts. It will ensure that NPP remains relevant and useful to broad-based and transformative social change.

Our material is out there, speaking truth to power! In the last several weeks alone, staff have done a dozen radio interviews on the FY2010 budget, we've been picked up on blogs like Huffington Post, Jo had a piece published in The Nation
on-line (find it here:
We've also had significant print media attention, like a recent AP hit that resulted in articles in 73 state papers, 3 national papers/magazines and 85+ website replications.

Your financial support makes all this possible. Please, please make a contribution today. These economic times are challenging. Help us close the gap in our annual revenue goal by making a meaningful gift for new national priorities!

Second, this one, from Mass Media Distribution, on where all those jobs Obama promised are [or aren't?]:

"Where Are Obama's 4.5 Million Jobs?" Recent College Grad Asks Prez

New York, NY (MMD Newswire) June 1, 2009 -- With millions of recent college graduates unable to find work and with countless older Americans thrown into foreclosure, bankruptcy, and shame, one recent grad is asking Obama where those 4.5 million "new" jobs are hiding.

"Where are they, President Obama? Because I have applied to literally hundreds of jobs -- media jobs, regular office jobs, and blue collar jobs... nothing has come up. And my situation is far from unique," says David Seaman, a recent college graduate living in New York.

"The media is covering older Americans who are struggling with foreclosure, because maybe it's sexy to have footage of a house with that big FORECLOSED sign out front. But no one is talking about the millions of us who have degrees and can't find work in this economy," he adds.

Seaman has posted a video on asking the President where the jobs are, and is forwarding the link to everyone he knows:

"I would like to get us to a million views this week, maybe if enough people see this, someone in the administration will actually show it to the President. This isn't a PR stunt; this is the real deal. No one is covering this issue."


Friday, June 5, 2009

Two radio notes

Two regional notes to talk about.
First, Samantha Clemens starts her new Saturday morning show on WWZN 1510 in Boston. She'll be on the air talking progressive issues from 10 to 11 a.m. and i online here:

Here are some details:
revolutionBoston is expanding to weekends!
The Samantha Clemens Show begins this Saturday on WWAN 1510 am from 10 to 11
We'll be talking about:

-the topic no one wants to talk about! - the Tiller killing with Rev Katherine Ragsdale, President and Dean of Cambridge's Divinity School (and bete noire of the right) who helped organize a vigil for Dr. Tiller, and;
-whether life as we know it will be forever altered after the MA State Democratic convention this weekend, with Craig Sandler, Owner and General Manager of the State House News Service (what will Deval do? are the Democrats behind him? where is all the $$$ going? should state employees give up Evacuation Day? does anyone know what Evacuation Day IS? )
On the conservative side of things, Chuck Morse is flying solo again and has moved his program on WDIS 1170 AM out of Norfolk, Mass., weekdays from 3 to 5 p.m.
Here is his press release:
WDIS AM 1170 / /
Sergio Garcia: 617.842.5153


Chuck Morse, one of the most conservative and controversial radio talk show hosts in the Northeast market, has opened the microphones for “The Boston Tea Party” weekdays at WDIS AM 1170, a news and business station reaching professionals in the Boston-Providence 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 the WDIS team and to be conducting my program live from Tasting's Wine Bar and Bistro at Patriot Place, the home of Gilette Stadium and the New England Patriots" said Morse.

“Our program will focus on political, social and cultural issues in the news, and we are looking forward to inviting prominent regional newsmakers, businessmen, academics, media experts and conservative intellectuals,” Morse said.

“The Boston Tea Party” will air Monday through Friday from 3-5 p.m.
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.”

House DPW Committee comments on transporation funding

Guest Perspective from the House Public Works & Highways Committee
The Senate has put back into HB2 the transportation funding plan crafted by the DOT Commissioner and proposed by Governor Lynch in his budget, with certain additions. The current Senate version raises vehicle registrations by $15, adds a new $10 surcharge to driver licenses, and an additional $15 for vanity plates. The Senate budget once again eliminates the 30 percent E-Z Pass discount for all passenger vehicles (not commercial) with a $30 monthly cap, and also assumes that tolls will be raised in Hooksett, Bedford, Rochester, Dover and the Hampton off-ramp. Finally, and most significantly, it calls for combining the current 93 miles of turnpike roads with over 250 miles of I - 93, I - 89, Route 101 east of Manchester, I - 293 and I - 393 (called the “aggregation plan”).

Aggregation is a major policy change that calls for turnpike tolls to pay for the building and repair of non-tolled state roads and bridges. In an interview with Foster’s Daily Democrat, Commissioner Campbell said he considered the system more an “evolution” than a policy change. The Senate’s acceptance of the Governor’s plan will only fund the highway fund in the short-term. There are several reasons this aggregation plan needs to be fully explored before implementation, including:

• Didn’t follow the process - the aggregation plan has not had a public hearing or official consideration by either the House or Senate policy committees. This plan needs to go through the full legislative scrutiny and the public hearing process to assess such questions as:

• Fiscal justification – it is difficult to justify how we can transfer 1.6 miles of I-95 (between the Portsmouth Circle to the Maine Border in HB 391) from the State Highway System to the Turnpike System for $120 million and now be asked to transfer over 250 miles for zero dollars.

• Fairness of the plan - the user-fee policy is eliminated and replaced by “donor communities” and “donor commuters.” A lawsuit is pending in Massachusetts regarding the fairness of turnpike users paying for non-turnpike roads.

• Diversion – last session the General Court worked in a bi-partisan effort to limit diversion of Highway Trust funds for non-highway uses. This plan calls for a major diversion of Turnpike Funds from the Turnpike System to the Highway System.

• Sustainability - this is perhaps a two-year funding plan. It is unsustainable without further toll increases and probably new toll booths in Salem and Nashua, which the Commissioner would not rule out after two years.

• Financial responsibility – under this plan it is possible that within two years both the Turnpike Fund (currently solvent for the near future) and the Highway Trust Fund will be in a deficit.

• Executive Council needs to approve raising tolls - it is unlikely the Executive Council will approve raising tolls for non-turnpike uses, only 18 months after voting to increase tolls for improvements and maintenance of the Turnpike System.

The pros and cons of aggregation require a more detailed study. It is not a matter to be decided in a budget committee of conference. DOT may have to wait another two years before being fully funded, but we believe allowing aggregation into HB2 at this time, without assessing the full fiscal and policy consequences, is simply wrong.

Signed unanimously by all 19 members of Public Works & Highways

Rep. Candace Bouchard, Chairman
Rep. David Campbell, Vice-Chairman
Rep. John Cloutier, Clerk
Rep. Gene Chandler
Rep. James Rausch
Rep. John Graham
Rep. Alfred “Gus” Lerandeau
Rep. Edmond Gionet
Rep. Dale Sprague
Rep. Russ Ingram
Rep. Patrick Long
Rep. Carole Brown
Rep. Mark McConkey
Rep. James Cyr
Rep. Carl Seidel
Rep. Maureen Mann
Rep. Walter Kolodziej
Rep. Peter Ramsey
Rep Clinton Bailey

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Very interesting ...

The Union Leader is reporting that Ann McLane Kuster will run for Congress in the NH 2nd CD. Here is the blurb: ["Concord Democrat entering congressional race"].
Kuster's book , "The Last Dance," about her mom, a long-time Republican state Senator, back when Concord was a Rockefeller Republican city, is a good read too [I interviewed her on WKXL at the time her book was released].
As the alert notes, there are a number of Dems thinking about the run. I personally like the way this race is shaping up. The voters [and the media] really deserve a free-for-all primary.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Do you hunt?

If you do, you might be interested in this. From the inbox:

CONCORD – Hunt of a Lifetime, in conjunction with the New Hampshire Chapter of Safari Club International and the New Hampshire Guides Association, is looking for two young people to take part in the New Hampshire Hunting Adventures program.
The program, established by law in 2007, allows the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department to issue two hunting permits to New Hampshire residents 21 or under, with critical, life-threatening or terminal illnesses. The participants may hunt any game species, such as deer, bear, or moose during the regular hunting season. However, the moose permits are valid from October 1st through the end of the regular moose season. Permits are valid throughout New Hampshire for either sex.
The first participant, a 9-year-old with juvenile dermatomyositis, shot an 850-pound bull moose and donated the meat to the New Hampshire Food Bank.
The selected applicants are exempt from licensing and hunter education requirements, but must be accompanied by a properly licensed person who is 21 years of age or older. The hunts are closely monitored by New Hampshire Fish and Game officials. Hunting equipment, guide services, accommodations, transportation and taxidermy are provided by local and national sponsors.
Additional information is available at or email at or by contacting state Rep. Bob L’Heureux, at bob.l'