Thursday, October 29, 2009

Great Frontline show ...

called "The Warning," about how officials in the Clinton Administration refused to allow derivatives to be regulated and how two of the three people who stopped this are now working in the Obama Administration. What a hero Brooksley Born is. And now, the Democrats are refusing to regulate derivatives again, even though they are the main cause of the financial collapse. For whatever reason, the embed code isn't working.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thoughts on the first (and only?) Mass. special election Senate debate

I was able to listen to most of the Democratic U.S. Special Election Senate debate via WBZ 1030 tonight and then, later, switched to NECN online, which I realized it was webstreaming [I would later try to pick up WBZ-TV's webstream but it wasn't working for me at work, for whatever reason].
First, all the candidates seemed pretty similar as far as views go.
Rep. Mike Capuano danced a bit on the driver's licenses for illegal aliens and Alan Khazei was the only one to express support for single-payer health care. Otherwise, they are always exactly alike.
Capuano seemed angry, often raising his voice, and not in the good way - showing populist sentiments - but in a bad way, seemingly talking down to people.
If I had a $1 for every time Steve Pagliuca said, "I agree with Mike ..." I could be a co-owner of the Celtics with him. He didn't do anything to hurt his cause but he didn't do anything to help it either.
Khazei was articulate and had a grasp of many of the issues. Some will say he needs to not dominate the debates by talking too much but I don't know.
Martha Coakley seemed relatively solid but stammered on a few issues. She was also the only candidate to acknowledge, during the Afghanistan discussion, that a Mass. soldier had died in the country today. That was a nice touch. While discussing public policy, you know, there are real human beings getting blown away [interestingly, or not so, all four were against more troops being sent to Afghanistan the same night that their future colleague in the Senate, John Kerry, was actually arguing for more troops]. It seems like it is Coakley's to lose.
One of the things that was annoying is the shortness of the debate, about an hour, which limited the question times on the major public policy issues of the day to a few seconds. This was just unacceptable. In addition, the moderator, Peter Meade, the former program director at WBZ radio, constantly interrupted the candidates when they should have been at least allowed a few seconds warning to wrap it up.
The big losers were the voters because the rumor is that this will be the only televised debate. There should be more of them maybe even, as Khazei challenged, one a week until Election Day.
After the debate, Jim Braude had a roundtable of guests discussing the results of the debate. Included in the mix was Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral for Khazei, a spokesman for Pagliuca, Republican Ralph Martin II backing Coakley (a Dem), and Marjorie Clapprood backing, of all people, Capuano, the same person she faced off with in the bloody 8th primary of 1998. Maybe she is hoping for another special election for the 8th so she can jump into that one again from her home in Sharon (which is still outside the district).
It was actually shocking to hear Clapprood spout off that the gender of the Senate candidate didn't matter. This from a woman who has used this as a crutch to gain (or attempt to gain) higher office, again and again. She has guilted people into voting for a woman when that woman didn't even live in the district and had no business being in the Congressional race in the first place. But I'm a woman, she roared back in 1998, there are no women from Massachusetts in the Congress. Blah, blah blah as she helped to derail the campaign of Sue Tracy, a competent, smart woman who actually lived in the district.
So, those are some thoughts.

Other reaction: Here is some of the other reactions from a few political reporters.
Jon Keller on WBZ-TV said Khazei came across best, with Coakley doing what she needed to do. He was slightly critical of both Capuano and Pagliuca. Keller was also on Dan Rea's show for a few minutes and was Tweeting with people and reading their comments in a Webcast.
Over on 7, Hiller said Coakley was the big winner and Capuano was the big loser.
David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix has a long post up here: ["Senate Debate, First Impressions"]. "Clear winner in the debate: Scott Brown," he wrote in the opening lines.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Change presidents, but some things never change

A good word out to Political Reporter Mark Matthews of ABC 7 in San Francisco for asking Leon Panetta some tough questions after his appearance at the Commonwealth Club, basically admitting that the CIA was continuing to assassination people overseas:

And, it was nice that Matthews went to talk to another expert too, to get a bit more balance after Panetta's sleight of hand gobblygook. You can read some more commentary here by David Swanson: ["Leon Panetta Questioned on Drone Use, Calls Secret Service on Questioner"].

Note that even though Panetta is a Democrat, installed by President Barack Obama, the supposed "change" agent, he is continuing the Bush-Cheney policy in this regard. He continues to parrot the "war on Al-Qaida" nonsense. I don't recall the Congress issuing a declaration of war against Al-Qaida. Do you? As I have stated before, it has been more than eight years and the supposed mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, Usama bin Ladin, is still at large. So, when is the United States government going to stop murdering innocent people, like the Moroccan waiter, and start trying to find the mastermind of 9-11? Or, was that never the purpose of this so-called "war" in the first place?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Nov. 2009 Top 30 Chart

Nov. 2009 Top 30 Chart

1. Passion Pit – Manners
2. Drug Rug – Paint the Fence Invisible
3. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm
4. Mission of Burma – The Sound The Speed The Light
5. Ad Frank & the Fast Easy Women – Your Secrets Are Mine Now
6. Mean Creek – The Sky (Or The Underground)
7. Hallelujah the Hills – Colonial Drones
8. Sidewalk Driver – For all the Boys and Girls
9. Cassavettes – Shake Down the Sun
10. The David Wax Museum – Carpenter Bird
11. The Lights Out – Color Machine
12. Magic Magic – Magic Magic
13. The Beatings – Late Season Kids
14. Doomriders – Darkness Comes Alive
15. The Points North – I Saw Across the Sound
16. Choo Choo La Rouge – I’ll Be Out All Night
17. Dead Cats Dead Rats – Dead Cats Dead Rats
18. Doom Buggies – Doom Music for Dining
19. The Everyday Visuals – The Everyday Visuals
20. The New Collisions – The New Collisions
21. The Peppermint Patties – This Ain't No Shitstorm
22. Tony the Bookie – The Tony the Bookie Orchestra
23. Wheat – White Ink, Black Ink
24. Apple Betty – Streakin’ Cross the Sky
25. The Bynars – Back From Outer Space
26. Dead Friends – “On the Run”
27. The New Alibis - Hard Promises
28. Joe Pernice – It Feels So Good When I Stop
29. The Acro-brats – “Hey Medusa”
30. The Steamy Bohemians – Technicolor Radio

Monday, October 19, 2009

This looks good

["The Fourth Kind"].

Hooksett Banner to publish weekly

There is some seemingly good news on the local media front: The Hooksett Banner, one of the Neighborhood News newspapers serving the suburban Manchester region, will return to publishing as a weekly, according to a notice on the front page of the Oct. 15 edition.
The Banner and the Goffstown News moved to bi-weekly publication in April, a few months after the company, which is owned by the Union Leader parent corporation, merged the News and the Bow Times into one publication. The newspaper noted that due to a drop in advertising, the paper would be making the change.
Back in April, the Banner was 20 pages; last week, it was 24 pages on Oct. 15. So, one could assume that revenue has picked up again, enough to go back to a weekly publication. Newspapers tend to favor a 50-50 ad to content ratio split in its print editions not including circulars or inserts in between the main books. An increase in size from 20 to 24 pages, for example, could possibly mean that the edition had two more pages in advertising for that edition, assuming that Neighborhood News uses the 50-50 ratio split.
At the time I wrote that bedroom communities with no retail base are very difficult markets for newspapers, especially free ones with no subscription base. Subscriptions usually cover the bulk of the expense, since there is limited advertising locally. Even though advertisers outside of a community want to pitch their products to affluent readers, that isn't enough these days to sustain the physical product. If there is nothing to pay for the physical newspaper, it can't be sustained, unfortunately. At the same time, I wondered if the Monitor increased its Bow news, would it gain more subscriptions? It doesn't seem to have done that. The Times operation, which had always been mailed to homes for free in Bow, didn't seem to think that a paid edition mailed to homes would work either.
No one yet on whether the News will go back to being a weekly or not but this is clearly positive news in an otherwise dark time for newspapers.

Also, in the Sunday Concord Monitor, there was an interesting overview of the state of newspapers in Claremont: ["Newspaper War"]. The story featured the Monitor's sister newspaper, the Valley News, prominently, including a picture of Mark Travis and did offer a disclaimer in the story. One could presume it is pretty good times for a small city when its daily newspaper files for bankruptcy, other entities come in to cover the news, and then, the bankrupt newspaper is revived after another company buys it, meaning there are even more news and marketing options for readers.

CBO Report On Medical Malpractice Flawed

Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader
Stuart Hagen must either be greatly overworked or possessed of an overwhelmingly monetized mind.

As the author of a Congressional Budget Office’s reply to the request by Senator Orrin G. Hatch (Rep. Utah) for an “updated analysis” of medical malpractice reform, Hagan neglected to mention a salient tragedy. About 100,000 Americans die every year from medical and hospital negligence or worse in hospitals alone.

That loss of life is greater than the annual combined fatalities from motor vehicle crashes, AIDS, and fires. This report on medical and hospital negligence came from physicians at the Harvard School of Public Health. Such preventable fatalities are associated with even larger numbers of preventable sicknesses and injuries. Tens of billions of dollars a year are the economic costs to victims, their next of kin and the economy.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), led by Douglas W. Elmendorf, is one of two Congressional offices left with any credible reputation—the other being the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The October 9, 2009 five page CBO report belies that reputation (

The customary right-wing reform literature on corporate regulation and tort-law rights dwells on inflated costs and blithely ignores benefits in terms of saving life, limb and property and compensating the aggrieved. This propaganda binge, spasmodically reproduced by the likes of the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and National Review editorialists, started with Murray Weidenbaum, economic advisor to Ronald Reagan. In his first report after leaving office about twenty-five years ago, he arbitrarily declared that federal regulation cost business $150 billion a year—since bloated in subsequent published effusions to over $800 billion. When I asked Mr. Weidenbaum what about the benefits of health and safety from safer cars, food, water, drugs and other products, he replied that was not his research burden. He was focusing on costs.

Mr. Hagen’s dispatch to Senator Hatch suffers from the same flawed analysis.

In the corporatized world of the Congress, “medical malpractice reform” means limiting the rights of wrongfully injured people to their full day in court. It does not mean reducing the prevalence of medical negligence, incompetence or greed, with all its lethal effects.

If reform meant reducing deaths, illness and sickness from bad doctors and bad medicine, powerful commercial interests would have to behave and upgrade their services ranging from prevention to treatment.

For example, medical malpractice insurance companies would have to experience-rate their physicians and surcharge the small percentage of recidivist, negligent or incompetent doctors. Drug companies would have to be subjected to stronger safety standards and recall obligations and stop their payola to physicians to get them to prescribe unnecessary medications or improper medications in our overdrugged society.

Also, state medical examining agencies would expand their staff and have their authority strengthened to remove the licenses of the small percentage of physicians who should not be practicing medicine at all. As Business Week editorialized years ago, the medical malpractice crisis is malpractice.

Hospitals, as some already are doing, would be cracking down on hospital induced infections with improved monitoring and simple sanitation like handwashing. The Centers for Disease Control estimates 260 to 270 deaths a day, 99,000 per year, due to hospital-induced infections.

Obviously these are not the kinds of human protections and cost-reductions on the minds of the Hatch Republicans and some lobby-indentured Democrats like Senator Max Baucus (Dem. Montana). But the CBO should not be reflecting this political slant. Like the Office of Technology Assessment, which Congress abolished in 1995, the CBO’s job is to convey the truth as best they see it regardless of the angle desired by Senators or Representatives.

The Center for Justice & Democracy (CJD) has just issued a fair critique of the CBO letter to Senator Hatch ( CJD points out the savings, both human and economic, that come with the deterrent effects of the tort law system. Among the studies cited is the Institute of Medicine finding that “[T]he litigation system seems to protect many patients from being injured in the first place. And since prevention before the fact is generally preferable to compensation after the fact, the apparent injury prevention effect must be an important factor in the debate about the future of the malpractice litigation system.”

Further, in the May 11, 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the CJD argued that “anesthesiologists were motivated by litigation to improve patient safety.” As a result, “the risk of death from anesthesia” was reduced from “1 in 5000 to about 1 in 250,000.”

Less than one in ten malpractice cases results in a legal claim for compensation. What physicians and hospitals pay in malpractice premiums annually is less than the cost of dog and cat food—under $10 billion.

Mr. Hagen and associates provided estimates of five “typical proposals, starting with a cap of $250,000 on pain and suffering for the most serious injuries. Such proposals have been the subject of various state rejections or enactments without significantly affecting the prices charged for malpractice insurance premiums. Even if they did, the human cruelty and pervasions of the insurance function itself should negate their adoption.

The CBO letter did not include the costs to Medicaid when victims do not receive an adequate award or settlement in court, to cite several omissions noted in the CJD analysis. CBO’s treatment of “defensive medicine” is thin, neglecting to point out that incentives for additional billing are factors; while invasive, non-indicated procedures for fear of fancied liability are themselves acts of malpractice.

Messrs Elmendorf and Hagen: even the best companies have bad days. It is time for a CBO recall!

New Citizen Funded Elections Task Force Convenes Tuesday

From the inbox:
A new task force charged with developing policy to create a system of publicly financed elections in New Hampshire will meet for the first time at 3 pm on Tuesday, October 20th in Room 103 of the State House in Concord. The bi-partisan group was mandated by the passage of HB513 last session and its members include both current legislators and citizen advocates appointed by the President of the Senate, Speaker of the House and the Governor.

Citizen Funded Elections Task Force members include: Senator Martha Fuller Clark (prime sponsor of HB513) and Senator Sharon Carson; Representatives Jim Splaine, Bob Perry, and Kathleen Hoelzel; former Representative and Coalition for Open Democracy (COD) Board Member Gordon Allen; PACE: Public Action for Clean Elections Board Member Abi Abrash-Walton; former Executive Councilor Peter Spaulding; former Senator Jim Rubens; and Rob Werner of Americans for Campaign Reform. One final member is yet to be appointed by Governor Lynch.

“Members of this new task force bring considerable expertise to the table,” said Representative Bob Perry, task force member. “There are also successful working models from other states, like Maine, Arizona and Connecticut, as well as a federal bill (the Fair Elections Now Act, or FENA), from which ideas can be drawn in drafting a bill for New Hampshire. We’ll need to identify sufficient and appropriate funding for a new system in order to get it underway.”

Efforts to pass public funding of elections in NH date back to 2002, when a bill to create the infrastructure for a system of public financing for state senate, executive council and gubernatorial races passed the Senate and narrowly failed in the House. According to COD, support within the legislature for such reform has expanded significantly since that time.

“It’s time we move forward on this fundamental reform,” said Sam Mekrut, Chair of Coalition for Open Democracy, a NH grassroots organization whose primary focus is engaging people in advocating for public funding of elections. “A large majority of NH voters support public funding because they see how, under our current system, wealthy special interests have a greater voice on issues like health care and the environment than voters do.” Coalition for Open Democracy believes that public financing ought to be enacted both at the national and state level to ensure that the voices of voters are not drowned out by large corporations and wealthy special interests. “By enhancing confidence in the democratic process, we ensure greater participation by voters and prospective candidates, bringing more ideas and energy to address complex problems.”

“Public funding of elections helps free candidates and elected officials from endless fundraising, allowing them to focus on policy-making and constituent concerns,” said long-time public financing advocate and COD member Doris “Granny D” Haddock. “You have to be a patriot to consider running for office in NH. It pays only $100 a year and then people say they have to spend at least ¼ of their time fundraising.”

The Citizen Funded Elections Task Force will make an initial report to the legislature in November 2009 and a final report in 2010, in time for legislation to be filed for the 2011 session. The Task Force is scheduled to meet again at 3 PM on October 27th; the regular meeting schedule is yet to be determined. Meetings are open to the public and interested activists are encouraged to join Granny D and other COD members in attending.

Shut your TV off on Nov. 5 ...

Friday, October 16, 2009

This video is critically important ...

I don't get to listen to Democracy Now much and, frankly, I don't care for some of Amy Goodman's obsessions. But this segment, featuring former bank regulator William Black, author of, "The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One," is very good, and a warning to all of us who are suffering during this difficult economic time:

If you can't watch videos, the rushed transcript is here: ["William Black segment"].

Check out these two bits from the transcript:
AMY GOODMAN: William Black, the New York Times recently reported that Citigroup has hired Richard Hohlt, who was a top lobbyist for the savings and loan industry in the 1980s.

WILLIAM BLACK: Yes. He is the most notorious lobbyist out of the savings and loan crisis. Even within a notorious group, the US League of Savings Institutions, which back then was the political scientist types, often said it was the third most powerful lobbying group in America. That group had, in essence, a black ops subgroup, and Richard Hohlt led it and is responsible for causing immense damage in the savings and loan crisis.

Beyond that, of course, he then comes back in the slime campaign on—when Wilson went public with some of his protests against the lying about the intelligence that got us into the war, the invasion of Iraq, Richard Hohlt reappears. And now he’s back being hired by—in essence, by taxpayer money to help loot the taxpayers again. My phrase for it in the New York Times was that it was “singularly obscene.”
And this:
JUAN GONZALEZ: And William Black, what is your sense of the prospects now for stronger financial regulation, given the fact that—my understanding is now that the financial and securities firms have invested about $200 million in lobbying—in their lobbying efforts in Congress, and the halls of Congress are filled with the lobbyists now who are trying to influence the members of Congress on the new regulation of the financial system?

WILLIAM BLACK: Well, the earliest effort is—should be a real wake-up call, because it’s horrible. Barney Frank has proposed legislation on financial derivatives that essentially exempts what are called over-the-counter derivatives from most regulation, and it is over-the-counter derivatives that have been a major cause of this crisis. So that’s utterly insane. There’s no conceivable justification for it. And he stacked the hearing. There were nine witnesses; eight of them were from the industry and, of course, testified that they were vital to the world. The ninth witness was the only person who was in the least bit skeptical, and he was promptly gaveled down, unlike the others, by the chair. So it’s not only a farce; they’re willing to have us see that it’s a farce. They are so little afraid of public opinion and outrage that they’re not even taking steps to cover up the cover-up.
So folks, here are the Democrats, again, as corrupt as can be, as bad as Clinton (or possibly worse), as bad as the Republicans, giving away the friggin' store, and Obama is out in San Fran, rallying the troops against the "evil" Republicans and still has work to do. Oh yeah, as Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, says, a financial coup.

Barney Frank and the Planet of the Banks

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
What planet is Congressman Barney Frank on, anyway? It is the planet of the banks and other financial firms that keep his campaign coffers humming, as their chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

On his extraterrestrial perch, camouflaged by his witty and irreverent observations, he sees the agony of gouged, debt-ridden consumers and homeowners, but his actions do not measure up.

As of this writing before the final set of hearings, Mr. Frank has dropped key provisions from a proposal to establish an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).

The banks did not want a consumer right of action against companies violating standards for their mortgages, credit and debit cards, or payday and installment loans. Barney said sure!

The banks want a weak oversight panel consisting of their toady regulators, who failed repeatedly and miserably in the past decade to stave off the collapse of Wall Street and its economically lethal consequences for workers and consumers. Barney said sure!

The banks want their buddies in Congress to drop the standard of reasonableness by which the new consumer protection agency can go after wildly gouging fees and deceptive practices, such as the check overdraft racket that rakes in $40 billion for the banks. Barney said, sure, sure!

The American Bankers Association is crowing like a thousand roosters. The five biggest banks--now even bigger after the collapse, their taxpayer bailout and their acquisitions--are crowing the loudest.

And why not? They speculated with retirement and other savings of the American people. Trillions of dollars were drained from the accounts and looted from these innocents.

Yet, the banks have every expectation that the Glass-Stegall Act--repealed by Clinton, Citigroup and the Congress in 1999--will not be reinstated to separate retail banking from investment banking and block the conflicts of interest that ravage investors.

The Banks will still have their protective Federal Reserve which, though empowered by a 1994 law to crack down on predatory lending, did nothing to stop the subprime mortgage rackets that submarined the housing economy.

Smelling a concessionary Barney Frank, other businesses want exemptions from the new consumer agency’s authority, including auto dealers, realtors, merchants, retailers and assorted other players in the fine print game of financial services.

Massively possessed by the sneering arrogance of the corporate state, these big banks are still granting huge bonuses to their management and top bosses, while the taxpayers of America are subsidizing them and bailing them out. Their chosen Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner conceded that the U.S. government is now insuring, not just the deposits of big banks, but their capital as well.

Most stunning to Americans, right or left, who follow these big money boys is that they are developing more speculative derivative packages, loaded with luscious fees, such as securitized bets on life insurance policies. Does this remind you of the kind of financial wheeling and dealing that sank Wall Street and the economy last year?

Naturally, consumer groups like the National Community Reinvestment Coalition ( and the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (USPIRG) ( who have provided excellent testimony in recent months about what the exploited consumers and savers need at long last, are disappointed. But they, and the Consumer Federation of America ( are facing an overwhelming resource mismatch with the financial businesses. These businesses are deploying armies of lobbyists on Capitol Hill and hosting hundreds of campaign cash parties.

In an excellent article in the New York Times, regular columnist Joe Nocera, asks the question--“Have the Banks No Shame?” He starts his reply by quoting Simon Johnson, a former economist with the International Monetary Fund: “They can’t pay what they owe!” he began angrily. Then he paused, collected his thoughts and started over: “Tim Geithner saved them on terms extremely favorable to the banks…What gets me is that the banks have continued to oppose consumer protection. How can they be opposed to consumer protection as defined by a man who is the most favorable Treasury secretary they have had in a generation…It is unconscionable.”

Well said, but not enough. As long as the top banking bosses get their huge bonuses and their mismanaged, corrupted banks get their taxpayer bailouts, because they are too big to fail, they will continue pushing their devastating greed with impunity.

The issue is not only shame. The issue is guilt and for that, prosecution, conviction and incarceration are the remedies. That is the only prospect that sobers up the corporate crooks.

Adequate prosecution budgets, tougher corporate criminal laws and a government going for law and order—none of these are in any legislative proposals or in the hearts and minds of our Washington representatives.

So, sovereign citizens everywhere, if you don’t organize to have the say, you’ll continue to pay, pay and pay. Time to make apathy boring!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sometimes, I'm brilliant ...

Yeah, I have moments of brilliance sometimes. Like this little line I wrote on facebook early this morning in reaction to Samantha Clemens posting a note about the Nobel Peace Prize Committee explaining its ridiculous prize to President Barack Obama:
Hmm, well, I guess if continuing the fraudulent war in Iraq, continuing the bogus war in Afghanistan where the mission should be apprehending Usama bin Ladin and bringing him to justice but isn't, continuing to spend $700 billion on a bloated, wasteful, and corrupt military budget, continuing to give away billions in weapons to countries and governments all around the world so they can kill their own people are all considered "promoting peace," then President Barack Obama surely deserves the prize.

Monday, October 12, 2009


I'll have pictures and a bit about my trip to the Newseum on Sunday. Stay tuned. One thing I was shocked about D.C.? The friggin' 10 percent sales tax! Yikes!!

Update: Maybe I should have written "food tax" is 10 percent ... I paid a 50 cent tax on a $4.99 smoothie at Smoothie King on 7th Street. It says "sale tax" on the receipt and I was pretty shocked by it when the bill came.

Update 2: Just looked at my Newseum receipt and saw a $1.20 tax on $19.95 which is, indeed, 6 percent.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Blogging break

I'm going to take a few days off from blogging. Talk amongst yourselves.

Another round of short takes ...

First, this is the most laughable thing I have ever seen, which had me rolling off my kitchen table seat after turning on my computer and spitting out my coffee this morning: ["President Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize"]. I have lost whatever remaining small amount of faith I had in these awards. Barack Obama has done nothing at all to advance the cause of peace. Nothing. The same way he has done nothing to fix the economy. He has continued the fraudulent wars after saying he wouldn't. He has about as much business winning this award as Dick Cheney does. This is simply disgraceful.

Update: Jamie O'Keefe just Tweeted this column which pretty much says it all: ["What has Barack Obama done for peace?"].

I forgot to post this earlier in the week - Kelly Ayotte with more strong poll numbers here in New Hampshire: ["Poll Shows Ayotte With Lead Over Hodes"].

For those of us who love print journalism, take a look at this Village Voice story about the newspaper war going on in NYC: ["How New York City's Seven Newspapers Are (Nearly) Surviving"]. And, BTW, I often see that some of the snarky start-up newspapers in the city are hiring so who knows?

I'm also late posting these two reports about press accuracy and what readers feel about journalism: ["Press Accuracy Rating Hits Two Decade Low"] and ["SHU NATIONAL POLL: TRUST AND SATISFACTION WITH THE NATIONAL NEWS MEDIA"].

I have been thinking about the issue of climate change lately too, mostly eyeing the so-called free trade system and how creating domestic manufacturing in each country for its own use would be a key way of lowering carbon emissions. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize that lowering birth rates is a wise first step to addressing the issue: ["'Contraception cheapest way to combat climate change'"]. From there, yeah, domestic micro-economies in each country or regions of countries; desalination plants, built like yesterday, to pump unsalted sea water out of the rising oceans and into aquafers [bringing water to areas that have never had water before]; etc. I'll write a bit more about this in the future, especially the silly natural gas campaign about dropping 3 percent of energy usage a year.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Oh, this is not good ...

A bit of analysis from the Washington Post here. New healthcare system, meet old healthcare system: ["Meet the New Health-Care System, Not That Different From the Old Health-Care System"].
Eh, that doesn't sound like "reform" to me ... that sounds like status quo. How stupid can people be supporting this?

Sign of the times

In the Monitor this morning, in the D section, there are a slew of auction notices. One of them is for the Plymouth moviehouse in Plymouth, which apparently went out of business recently. It was renovated in 2003 too. The auction will be held on Oct. 23. You would think a movie theatre in a college town, granted, a small one, would be able to survive but I guess not. It's pretty sad to see some of these places go under. But, I guess, not unlike the theatres of the past that have long since gone, it's a sign of the times.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What's going on in Boston?

I haven't had much time to write about much at all these days. So, I totally missed the returns from the Boston city elections.
David Bernstein from the Boston Phoenix has some pretty good analysis here: ["At-Large Campaign Funds, As They Pass The Prelim"].
I too would question the remark about Steve Murphy slipping out of the top four. More than $50k with just weeks to go is more than enough money. While he has had trouble in the past with finals - moving from second to third or fourth - that was the distant past. Murphy has made great in-roads into minority and progressive communities over the years. He is a bread-and-butter constituent services guy and folks know they can rely on him to get things done without the platitudes, grandstanding, or hunger strikes.
I don't know if he will make the top two in the end. But I don't see a Kenneally or Jackson toppling him, bumping him to fifth. He'll make the top four.
The fight clearly is between Arroyo, Pressley, and Kenneally [and maybe Jackson too] for the leftover spots. I would sense, knowing that final election voters tend to be less conservative and more "enlightened" [or they think of themselves that way ...], that Arroyo and Pressley will round out the four. Getting some color, and another woman on the council would probably be attractive to voters in the end.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Follow the N.H. Legislature on Twitter

From the inbox:
The New Hampshire House of Representatives is now on Twitter, the social networking site where short messages can be seen describing news events and other developments taking place in the largest state legislative body in America.
“We are excited to use this newer form of communication to continue in our efforts toward openness and transparency in government,” said House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth.
Among the items expected to be posted are announcements of upcoming sessions, votes by committees on whether to recommend a bill pass or not, when sessions begin – with links to live streaming video, and information updating readers about natural disasters or weather events.
Readers can sign up at no charge to “follow” the New Hampshire House at Readers have the option, too, to have new postings sent directly to their cell phones.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Credit card problems still overwhelming

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
Consumers rejoice. Floyd Norris has just penned a piece for the New York Times titled: “Rich and Poor Should Pay Same Price.”

Mr. Norris said, it seems “absurd to have a system that requires people who do not use credit to subsidize those who do. You know there is something wrong when a middle-class person can get a part of his purchases refunded by the bank, or can collect miles good for free airline tickets, while paying the same price as a poor person who can get none of those benefits.”

Mr. Norris is on to something important. He reminded me of an article I wrote in December 1985. I asked readers of my weekly column to consider some of the pitfalls of credit card purchasing. I noted that the big banks relentlessly promote credit card usage without adequately presenting the downside of credit card debt. I asked readers to imagine seeing a television presentation by an organization known as the "Cash Payment Fans of America.” The made-for-television production sponsored by this imaginary organization would ask viewers to consider some counter-marketing advice with the following declaration: “Credit Cards: Maybe You DO Want to Leave Home Without Them.”

Law Professor Adam J. Levitin, in a 2008 article in the Harvard Journal on Legislation reports:
“On average, credit card transactions cost merchants six times as much as cash transactions and twice as much as checks or PIN-based debit card transactions.” Professor Levitin also notes that in 2006 “U.S. merchants paid nearly $57 billion to accept payment card transactions, which makes this component of the payments industry larger than the entire biotech industry, the music industry, the microprocessor industry, the electronic game industry, Hollywood box office sales, and worldwide venture capital investments.” These are stunning observations.

Alas, our collective imagination may not yet have evolved to the point where we can consider a day without VISA and MasterCard. The buy now, pay later credit card cabal knows few bounds. The credit card vendors want you to forget that using a credit card means you are borrowing money and that you must repay what you borrowed with interest. And, the interest rates can be staggering. Until recently credit card companies could charge annual percentage (APR) rates of up to 36 percent. And, the fine print in your credit card agreement might allow the “merchants of credit” to charge membership fees – described as “participation fees,” “maintenance fees,” or “activation fees” – on top of the interest fees. And don't forget the “transaction fees,” for getting cash with your card, the fees for exceeding your credit limit or for making a late payment.

Ed Mierzwinski of USPIRG, a consumer watchdog organization, monitors the credit card racket and the slippery practices of banks that gouge consumers with a variety of fees.
USPIRG notes that credit card issuers have tricked consumers by:
1. suddenly advancing long-standing regular due dates by five days or more to trick consumers into paying late; 2. arranging for due dates to fall on weekends and then claiming that bills received after 12 noon or 1 pm were late; 3. imposing late fees not only when bills were 30 days late, but as little as one minute or one day late; and, 4. raising the interest rate if your credit score declines.

Fortunately, some of the most egregious credit card abuses will be eliminated by legislation signed into law on May 22, 2009. The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009, while not perfect, will generally require 45-days advance notice of any rate increase or any other significant changes in account terms, up from 15 days, and card issuers will have to inform consumers of their right to cancel their card before rate increases or account changes take effect. Credit card statements must also be mailed out 21 days before they are due. The new law also limits some interest rate hikes for late payments.

Unfortunately, the problems associated with getting on the credit card treadmill are still overwhelming. Despite some modest legislative reforms, too many credit card issuers are still predators waiting to pounce. Representative Peter Welch (Vt.) and thirteen House co-sponsors have introduced the “Credit Card Interchange Fees Act of 2009.” This piece of legislation is designed to limit some of the fees credit card companies charge retailers and shed some light on the costs of credit card transactions to consumers and merchants.

Consumers can make some additional waves themselves by pretending they have joined "Cash Payment Fans of America” and for one week paying with cash for goods and services. The results could be illuminating.

"Jack and squat ..."

Oh, this is too funny ... and too true. What has President Obama actually done? Jack and squat:

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Time for Citizens to Convene

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
Just when many conditions seemed ripe for a progressive political movement, the likelihood is fading fast. Concentrated corporate power over our political economy and its control over peoples lives knows few boundaries.

As Republican investor advocate leader Robert Monks puts it: “The United States is a corporatist state. This means that individuals are largely excluded both in the political and corporate spheres.”

Since Wall Street’s self-inflicted multi-trillion dollar collapse last year, the corporate supremacists have shown no remorse. They have become more aggressive: they are blocking regulatory reforms; pouring campaign donations into the governing Democrats’ coffers; and, shamelessly demanding more bailouts, subsidies and tax reductions. They also continue to block avenues for judicial justice by aggrieved people, whether they be the wrongfully injured, defrauded consumers and investors, or jettisoned workers and bilked pensioneers.

The problem: large corporations have too many structural powers over the citizenry. These “artificial persons” have acquired the constitutional rights originally given in 1787 only to “natural persons.” In fact, corporations have enormously greater privileges and immunities than the people themselves because of their global control over politicians, capital, labor and technology.

Normal sanctions do not adequately deter multinational companies that can obscure their culpability, escape jurisdictions or create their own parents (holding companies) and endless progeny (subsidiaries) to evade or avoid accountability.

Even the most ardent progressives in Congress, and the most organized progressive groups, cannot begin to deal with such gigantic mismatches.

Decades ago, there was more debate about the need for different “rules of conduct,” to use conservative Frederick A. Hayek’s phrase, between corporations and human beings. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis warned about corporations becoming “Frankensteins.” Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft wanted to replace the permissive state chartering laws with tough federal chartering laws for large corporations.

For two generations the ever-expanding superior status of corporations has gone undiscussed in political realms. During that time, corporations and their attorneys rode roughshod over the “we the people” preamble of the Constitution. Our charter of government never mentions the word “corporation.”

Unabated, the corporate crime wave continues. The corporate welfare kings get fatter, the power disparity expands between corporations and shrinking unions, and the pull-down pressures, created by the corporate shipment of jobs and industries to repressive regimes abroad, further corrodes American work opportunities. More of government, including military functions, is being corporatized despite recurring reports of rising waste, fraud and abuse.

The federal government’s budget for auditors, investigators, inspectors and prosecutors is laughable, given the scale of looting: the defrauding of medicare; abuses of Pentagon contracts; the taking of minerals on the public lands; and the giveaways of government research and development to favored companies.

Corporate profits keep going up, except for bailout periods, while most Americans’ standards of living decline. Our country, so full of unapplied solutions, is gridlocked—stuck in traffic. Record levels of poverty, unemployment, home foreclosures, consumer debt and bankruptcies, and people lacking health insurance persist, yet corporate political power has not waned. A bad sign. Indeed, it has increased, notwithstanding large majorities of Americans decrying too much corporate control over their lives. The leave-it-to-the market ideology of Big Business, and its claims of patriotism, have lost credibility in this globalized era. Yet, the myth lives on even as socialism routinely saves big capitalism from its own greed.

What can active progressives do? In Congress, amongst the Republicans and corporate Democrats, the small progressive caucus of 83 members generates little political impact. Ironically, many of those progressive legislators are busy dialing for the same commercial campaign dollars.

Outside Congress, progressive groups have been on the defensive for so many years that they have few offensive political strategies. The two parties are in the narrowest channels of self-perpetuation. They gerrymander their opponents into one-party districts and together produce a matrix of obstacles to keep competition from third parties at bay.

Both parties give preferential access to the hordes of drug, coal, banking and other industry lobbyists, who are allowed de facto to choose many of the nominees that lead the government’s departments, such as the Defense and Treasury Departments.

Enough abuses have been documented. Enough power has been concentrated to shred our democratic processes and institutions. It is time to decisively shift power from the few to the many. Democratic power is the essence of progressive political philosophy, and the precondition for the emergence of a just society nourished by higher public expectations.

How to begin? Progressives—elected, civic, labor and funders—need to come together in a national convention to aggregate the existing forces for change. Such a gathering could create a clear-eyed vision of the common good to shatter debilitating public cynicism and passivity.

In attendance must be a broad range of energetic community organizers, thinkers, the seriously generous progressive mega-rich and the heroic dynamos who have risen from their suffering to act on behalf of “liberty and justice for all.”

There is ample historic precedent for the galvanizing effect of founding social justice conventions. This proposed convocation needs to take civic and political action to unprecedented levels, powerfully fueled by committed resources and strategies to build enduring democratic institutions.

Unused knowledge, and many working models of community economics, environmental advances and educational quality exist to further the larger progressive dynamic.

Lincoln once observed the crucial importance of “public sentiment” for moving a society forward. That “public sentiment” is here, deep, widespread and ready for clearly explained “redirections.”

If a mantra is needed in the convention hall, let the eternal words of the Roman, Marcus Cicero, be emblazoned for all to see: “Freedom is participation in power.” For this aspiration places responsibility where it must always reside: on the shoulders, in the minds, and in the hearts of an empowered American people.

Ralph Nader is the author of Only the Super Rich Can Save Us! For more information, see OnlytheSuperRich.Org.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

State House Reps. to hold food drive

From the inbox:

The New Hampshire House of Representatives will sponsor a food drive on its next session day, Wednesday, Oct. 28.
The session known as Veto Day, the time when the House takes up the bills which have been vetoed by Gov. John Lynch, will begin at 10 a.m.
Members are being asked to bring non-perishable food items to the State House. Food collected that day will be donated to the New Hampshire Food Bank, which distributes statewide.
“This is a good way for us to reach out and help our fellow citizens, particularly in this tough economy,” said House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth. “With winter and the holidays approaching, this is an opportune time for us to come to the Food Bank’s assistance.”
The New Hampshire Food Bank is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. It serves more than 390 agencies around the state, including 19 soup kitchens and 148 food pantries.
Among the preferred items sought on Oct. 28 are canned goods – vegetables, fruits, meats, soups and stews, and boxed pastas and cereals. A room in the State House will be the designated drop-off point.

Ayotte continues lead ...

I think this is the third or fourth poll in a row that has Republican Kelly Ayotte leading over Democrat Paul Hodes for the U.S. Senate seat here: ["Ayotte/Hodes 2010 US Senate Ballot"].
Not unlike other polls, the two candidates have overwhelming support within their own parties and get a sliver of the opposing parties. And not unlike other polls, undeclareds are breaking Ayotte's way. Of course, it really doesn't matter at this point in the campaign, since the election is a year away. But, it is interesting.