Monday, April 27, 2009
Saturday, April 18, 2009
1947 : Jackie Robinson breaks color barrier
On this day in 1947, Jackie Robinson, age 28, becomes the first African-American player in Major League Baseball when he steps onto Ebbets Field in Brooklyn to compete for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson broke the color barrier in a sport that had been segregated for more than 50 years. Exactly 50 years later, on April 15, 1997, Robinson's groundbreaking career was honored and his uniform number, 42, was retired from Major League Baseball by Commissioner Bud Selig in a ceremony attended by over 50,000 fans at New York City's Shea Stadium. Robinson's was the first-ever number retired by all teams in the league.
Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia, to a family of sharecroppers. Growing up, he excelled at sports and attended the University of California at Los Angeles, where he was the first athlete to letter in four varsity sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. After financial difficulties forced Robinson to drop out of UCLA, he joined the army in 1942 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. After protesting instances of racial discrimination during his military service, Robinson was court-martialed in 1944. Ultimately, though, he was honorably discharged.
After the army, Robinson played for a season in the Negro American League. In 1945, Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, recruited Robinson, who was known for his integrity and intelligence as well as his talent, to join one of the club's farm teams. In 1947, Robinson was called up to the Majors and soon became a star infielder and outfielder for the Dodgers, as well as the National League's Rookie of the Year. In 1949, the right-hander was named the National League's Most Valuable Player and league batting champ. Robinson played on the National League All-Star team from 1949 through 1954 and led the Dodgers to six National League pennants and one World Series, in 1955. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility.
Despite his talent and success as a player, Robinson faced tremendous racial discrimination throughout his career, from baseball fans and some fellow players. Additionally, Jim Crow laws prevented Robinson from using the same hotels and restaurants as his teammates while playing in the South.
After retiring from baseball in 1957, Robinson became a businessman and civil rights activist. He died October 24, 1972, at age 53, in Stamford, Connecticut.
1947 : Jackie Robinson breaks color barrier
1865 : President Lincoln dies
1912 : Titanic sinks
1998 : Pol Pot dies
1783 : Congress ratifies peace with Great Britain
Also in Reproductive Justice and Gender
No Baby for Old Men?
The End of the Women's Movement
Courtney E. Martin
While training for an upcoming film, I've come to this conclusion: chin ups are near impossible and lunges suck. There is no magic wand to wave over oneself to look good in a latex catsuit. Eating healthy and getting fit is about commitment, determination, consistency and the dedication to self-preservation. While I've never been considered a gym rat, I have, in fact, worked up a sweat in the name of cardio before, and although I enjoy a grilled cheese as much as the next person, I combine the not-so-good foods I crave with an all-around balanced diet.
People come in all shapes and sizes and everyone has the capability to meet their maximum potential. Once filming is completed, I'll no longer need to rehash the 50 ways to lift a dumbbell, but I'll commit to working out at least 30 minutes a day and eating a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables and lean proteins. Pull ups, crunches, lunges, squats, jumping jacks, planks, walking, jogging and push ups are all exercises that can be performed without fancy trainers or gym memberships. I've realized through this process that no matter how busy my life may be, I feel better when I take a little time to focus on staying active. We can all pledge to have healthy bodies no matter how diverse our lifestyles may be.
Since dedicating myself to getting into "superhero shape," several articles regarding my weight have been brought to my attention. Claims have been made that I've been on a strict workout routine regulated by co-stars, whipped into shape by trainers I've never met, eating sprouted grains I can't pronounce and ultimately losing 14 pounds off my 5'3" frame. Losing 14 pounds out of necessity in order to live a healthier life is a huge victory. I'm a petite person to begin with, so the idea of my losing this amount of weight is utter lunacy. If I were to lose 14 pounds, I'd have to part with both arms. And a foot. I'm frustrated with the irresponsibility of tabloid media who sell the public ideas about what we should look like and how we should get there.
Every time I pass a newsstand, the bold yellow font of tabloid and lifestyle magazines scream out at me: "Look Who's Lost It!" "They Were Fabby and Now They're Flabby!" "They Were Flabby and Now They're Flat!" We're all aware of the sagas these glossies create: "Look Who's Still A Sea Cow After Giving Birth to Twins!" Or the equally perverse: "Slammin' Post Baby Beach Bodies Just Four Days After Crowning!"
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), as many as 10 million females and 1 million males living in the U.S. are fighting a life and death battle with anorexia or bulimia. I'm someone who has always publicly advocated for a healthy body image and the idea that the media would maintain that I have lost an impossible amount of weight by some sort of "crash diet" or miracle workout is ludicrous. I believe it's reckless and dangerous for these publications to sell the story that these are acceptable ways to looking like a "movie star." It's great to get tips on how to lead a healthier lifestyle, but I don't want some imaginary account of "How She Did It!" I get into and stay in shape by eating a proper diet and maintaining a healthy amount of exercise. The press should be held accountable for the false ideals they sell to their readers regarding body image -- that's the real weight of the issue. The NEDA goes on to say, "the media is one of our most important allies in the effort to raise awareness about the dangers of eating disorders...we strive to work with the media to produce accurate, insightful and informative pieces that will resonate with the public, while maintaining hope and avoiding glamorizing or promoting copycats."
Also in Sex and Relationships
SexPot: Want to Have Great Sex? Smoke a Joint
10 Surprising Things You Might Not Know About Sex
The crisis gay youth face in the Bible Belt struck home particularly hard for me this week while dining with members of a gay/straight alliance in a small Southern town.
After asking the conversation-opener of the group -- "So, would you like to all share your coming out stories with me?" -- a young woman on my right named Angie* immediately burst out, "My mother came at me with a butcher knife!"
Stunned, I was trying to process this when a young woman to my left whispered, "You don't want to hear my story, it's too violent." More violent than your mother attacking you with a butcher knife? How is that possible? What does that mean?
I usually visit with the gay/straight alliance students during my campus visits. At this particular tiny university town in a remote corner of the South, we had a room to ourselves at a not-very-fancy Chinese restaurant in a strip mall. The students were adorable -- sweet, eager to please, charming.
Sipping hot oolong tea, I tried to wrap my mind around the image of my mother, the person who is supposed to love me the most, coming at me with a big knife. Blood-soaked footage from the movie Carrie filled my head. I thought, "Your mother is the one who's supposed to protect you from the person holding the butcher knife, not be the person wielding it. What kind of psychological damage does this do?"
It emerged that Angie's 14-year-old younger sister had outed her to their mother. How scary for the younger sister to witness such a dire reaction to a petty act of tattling. This mother's violent, homophobic response to Angie psychologically abused both girls.
Meanwhile, the alliance students, although attentive and respectful to Angie and one another, did not act disturbed or even very surprised by the butcher-knife story or the ones that followed. Their general demeanor suggested that these kinds of horror stories were simply business as usual in their lives.
We all got up, filled our plates and upon our return to the table, they continued to share.
"My mother didn't speak to me for three months."
"My partner and I had to fake a breakup so I could keep my car."
"My father called me an abomination and quoted Scripture."
"My parents disowned me."
"I haven't come out to my parents because they couldn't handle it."
No one's opinion is more important, no one's rejection more painful, and no one's support more sought than the families -- and especially the mothers -- of the gay men and lesbians I have interviewed.
History and culture instruct us that relationships with family members mean something special and different than those with the rest of the world. We learn that "family is always there for you" and "you can't divorce your family." We are told to "take care of family" and that "a mother's love is unconditional." Family "takes you in when no one else will have you." Home is a "haven."
Regardless of the validity of these cultural narratives in any particular family, they function as an ideological backdrop against which most of us measure our family relationships.
Home is not a haven for many Bible Belt gays. Home may be more dangerous than the streets. A 2006 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study found that of homeless teens, 42 percent identify as gay. If one considers that the most generous estimates of the percentage of gay people in the general population is 10 percent, such a statistic illustrates an alarming over-representation of gay kids among the homeless.
Bernadette Barton (Ph.D. University of Kentucky 2000) is associate professor of sociology and women’s studies at Morehead State University. She is the author of Stripped: Inside the Lives of Exotic Dancers (2006, New York University Press), and numerous articles on sexuality studies. Barton’s current research project examines the experiences of gay men and lesbians, and is the focus of an upcoming book, Pray the Gay Away: Religion and Homosexuality in the Bible Belt.
Getting Real About the Banks' 'Toxic Assets': People Live in Them
Lagan Sebert, David Murdock
Fake Teabaggers Are Anti-Spend, Anti-Government: Real Populists Want to Stop Banks from Plundering America
Mark Ames, Yasha Levine, Alexander Zaitchik
Our nation needs a plan to pay for long-overdue investments in education, health and retrofitting our energy infrastructure. Nothing could be more obvious. But, just as obviously, we need a plan to pay for those investments.
Short-term borrowing, during an economic downturn, certainly makes sense. Long term, we need to do much more than borrow. We need to totally reverse 30 years worth of federal tax and budget policy.
George W. Bush, over his eight years, took tax and budget policy to the crony-capitalist limit. His White House racked up $5 trillion in national debt by waging reckless wars, shoveling lush contracts and bailouts to corporate and Wall Street insiders, and, perhaps most arrogantly of all, slashing already-low tax rates on the incomes of the super rich.
Few Americans realize just how incredibly little, historically speaking, our nation's wealthy now pay in taxes.
In 1955, the year April 15 became the IRS tax-filing deadline, America's top 400 taxpayers paid three times more of their income in taxes than the top 400 of 2006, the most recent year with IRS data available.
According to a new Tax Day report that we co-authored, if the top 400 of 2006 had paid taxes at 1955 rates, the federal treasury would have collected -- from these 400 taxpayers alone -- an additional $35.9 billion more in revenue in 2006.
The 139,000 U.S. taxpayers who made over $2 million in 2006, our report also notes, averaged $5.9 million in income. They paid 23.2 percent of their total incomes in federal income tax. The comparable rate for equivalent high-income Americans in 1955: 49 percent.
If the over-$2 million set in 2006 had paid taxes at the same rate as their 1955 counterparts, the federal treasury would have collected $202 billion.
We've now lived through 30 years of "shrink, shift and shaft" federal budget and tax policies. Right-wing pols, aided by Democrats who should have known better, have shrunk government and the share of taxes paid by the wealthiest 1 percent. The tax burden, consequently, has shifted off wealth and onto wages, off the federal tax system and onto the regressive tax systems of states and localities.
The direct result: States and localities have gotten the budget shaft -- and that has forced years of chronic underfunding for mass transit, education and myriad public services.
So what can we do, as a nation, to start turning this situation around? Our Institute for Policy Studies report -- "Reversing the Great Tax Shift" advances a set of specific steps that would generate over $450 billion in annual revenue, dollars that would help finance our recovery fairly.
We recommend that lawmakers:
Tax income from capital gains and dividends at the same rates as wage income. Under current law, income from investments gets taxed at 15 percent. Income from work gets taxed at up to 35 percent. No coherent moral justification exists for such an enormous tax preference for income from wealth. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, taxing all forms of income the same would generate $80 billion a year.
Create a new top tax rate for incomes over $2 million. Presently, a person with an income of $300,000 faces the same tax rates as a person with an income of $3 million. Instituting a top tax rate of 50 percent on incomes over $2 million would generate more than $60 billion a year.
Levy a progressive estate tax on large fortunes. The federal estate tax, our nation's only levy on grand accumulations of private wealth, will expire in 2010 and revert to the 2000 status quo. Lawmakers aren't going to let that happen -- if, for no other reason, to take inflation into account -- and that reality creates an opportunity to make the estate tax more progressive.
One reform would be to institute graduated tax rates on large estates, while exempting estates worth less than $2 million, $4 million for a couple. Such an approach would generate over $100 billion a year a decade from now -- while taxing no more than 1 of every 200 estates.
All these steps, we believe, would enjoy widespread public support.
Our grandparents seriously taxed the rich. Why can't we?
Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and chairman of the Working Group on Extreme Inequality, an emerging coalition of religious, business, labor and civic groups concerned about the wealth gap. He is co-author, with Bill Gates Sr., of Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes.
Sam Pizzigati is the editor of the online weekly Too Much and an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Christian Science Monitor - The Obama administration announced that it will loosen some restrictions on Americans' contact and dealings with Cuba â€“ a first step in what is seen as a gradual revision of US policy toward the communist island country. . . They include a broadened list of items that families can send to relatives in Cuba, such as humanitarian goods like clothes, fishing equipment, and personal-hygiene products. Moreover, some US telecommunications companies will now be permitted to apply for licenses to do business in Cuba. If the Cuban government allows it, they could bring improved radio, TV, mobile phone, and Internet service to the country â€“ part of the Obama administration's effort to link Cubans to the outside world. . .
Political Wire - Gov. Rod Blagojevich's staff was told last year that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) would raise up to $5 million in campaign cash for the ex-governor if he was appointed to the U.S. Senate, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. "Besides the $5 million to be raised by Jackson, the proposal also included another $1 million for Blagojevich's campaign fund that would come from Indian donors, sources say. This is the first revelation that a proposal for the Jackson appointment involved an alleged promise that he'd raise campaign cash for the ex-governor. Also, the amount of money allegedly offered to Blagojevich is significantly higher than what's been reported so far."
Boston Globe - Police in southern New Hampshire are searching for a burglar who says he's sorry. Pelham police say a resident who pulled into his driveway Friday afternoon caught a burglar coming out of the house with jewelry boxes and electronic items. The homeowner told police that when he approached the burglar, the man apologized, then put the stolen goods back. Police say the homeowner tried to detain the burglar by engaging him in conversation, but the suspect fled by the time officers arrived.
Handan T. Satiroglu, The Wip - In what Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni eloquently calls "the great emotional sickness of our era," people are finding themselves increasingly detached and drifting away from intimacy. . . A 2006 study published in the American Sociological Review found that Americans had on average only two close friends, as opposed three, two decades ago. One in four Americans said they had no one to confide in, compared to one in ten in 1985, while the number of people who depend solely on their spouse went from five to nine percent.
SPYING ON BIG BROTHER
New Scientist - People watching CCTV images back in the control rooms often have too many screens to monitor at once, and so may miss the criminal or antisocial activities they are there to spot. To the rescue of Big Brother's limited attention capabilities come Ulas Vural and Yusuf Akgul of the Gebze Institute of Technology in Turkey, who have developed a gaze-tracking camera system that watches the eyeballs of CCTV operators as they work. It then automatically produces a summary of the CCTV video sequences they have missed during their shift. "This increases the reliability of the surveillance system by giving a second chance to the operator," the researchers write in the journal Pattern Recognition Letters. The system uses webcam-style cameras trained on the irises of the CCTV operators. From this, software works out where the operators are looking as they stare at each monitor - and the areas they have not been paying attention to. From this it creates a video of what they missed, for them and their bosses to watch at the end of their shift.
Christian Science Monitor - For the first time in a quarter century, the number of African-Americans incarcerated for drug offenses in state prisons has declined more than 20 percent while the number of white imprisoned drug offenders has increased more than 40 percent. The decline took place over a six year period from 1999 to 2005 and reflects fundamental changes in the so-called "war on drugs" - how it's targeted and prosecuted - as well as the waning of the crack epidemic in predominantly minority urban areas and the increase in methamphetamine abuse in largely white rural neighborhoods
FREEDOM & JUSTICE
Richard Winton, LA Times - Civil rights activists called for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and sheriff to close the Men's Central Jail, where they say nightmarish conditions and overcrowding have exacerbated the symptoms of thousands of inmates suffering serious mental illness. American Civil Liberties Union leaders made the call as they released a report by an expert on mental health in jails that paints the aging Men's Central Jail in downtown L.A. as a massively overcrowded center where the mentally ill are abused, kept in their cells for much, if not all, of the day, and instead of being treated are subject to discipline
BIG BUST LEADS TO TSA ABUSE OF WOMAN
Tree Hugger - With too many [Santa Monica] gardeners filling up the waiting list for community gardens, it's taking as long as 5 years to finally get a plot of dirt to grow veggies. So gardeners and city officials started a registry to connect homeowners willing to have their yards turned into gardens with the people who are willing to do the gardening.
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"There are so many gaps," says Monica Halas, lead attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services, which provides free legal aid to low-income people. "People think (if) they are unemployed, they are going to get unemployment. Not true."
There are a number of reasons people are ineligible for unemployment benefits. Policies vary widely by state: The proportion of unemployed people who were collecting benefits in 2008 ranged from 18% in South Dakota to 61% in Idaho, according to the National Employment Law Project.
Often, those who worked part time or who were not at their job for very long before being laid off are not eligible. That tends to disproportionately include women, low-income workers and people with more seasonal jobs, such as construction, according to the NELP. A 2007 report from the Government Accountability Office found low-wage workers were about one-third as likely to collect unemployment benefits as those earning more. People who are fired for performance issues, who quit or who were self-employed are immediately tossed out.
That means that private employers are paying for only four out of ten people who are insured in this nation. Despite this, they are paying vastly increasing premiums, increasing far beyond the rate of inflation and they are paying these large sums mostly on the lowest risk population. Insurance companies are basing their premiums on the loss of their investments in the stock market, not on the cost of providing health care. If the government collected the premiums on this population instead of the private health insurance companies, the first thing that would happen is that the costs would go down by 30% due to the excessive amount of money spent by the insurance companies on people hired to deny payments to those they insure. The second thing that would happen is we'd be adding premium money to government funds from the people most likely to pay more into the system than they take out.
As our system exists now, the private companies get to keep the profitable clients and the rest are picked up either by the government directly or indirectly, due to failure of the uninsured to be able to pay. The insurance companies, in their never ending greed, aren't willing to concede that they've had a system rigged to make them rich all these years, count their winnings and leave the table. No, they want the system to continue forever, and are unconcerned with the fact that people are dying needlessly due to their greed. They will fight tooth and nail to keep their cherry picked clients and keep the profits for themselves rather than using this extra money to pay for additional coverage, benefits, or reduced premiums.
They seem to have made progress even with Obama, who has given the great insurance company giveaway when the government decided to pay 67% of COBRA fees rather than take the unemployed and put them on Medicare. . .
Faced with increasing health care costs, some policies are becoming too expensive to use, with deductibles in the $10,000 range. This means that the business is paying more, the employee is paying more, and yet they don't actually get health care. Particularly preventative health care. Doctors and hospitals are reporting that even insured people are coming in later in an illness and sicker. Costs of treating such patients can be exponentially more than if they had sought medical care earlier.
Another thing insurance companies do, and are allowed to do, is to tier their premium price to risk factors such as age or previous illness -- so that the premium for someone who is 60 is three times higher than the twenty something who works in the same office. Guess what? This motivates companies to fire or lay off their veteran employees to save money. . .
Guardian, UK - Every young person will have to do 50 hours' voluntary work by the age of 19 if Labor wins the next election. Gordon Brown said a plan for compulsory community service would be included in Labor's manifesto. Under the scheme, the work - which could include helping charities in the UK and abroad - is likely to become part of the national curriculum. It would be integrated into moves to make everyone stay in education or training until 18 by 2011. Writing in the News of the World, the prime minister said he wanted community service to be " a normal part of growing up in Britain."
He went on: "The contributions of each of us will build a better society for all of us. That would mean young people being expected to contribute at least 50 hours of community service by the time they have reached the age of 19.
"This will build on the platform provided by citizenship classes as they develop in our schools. But because the greater part of what I envisage as community service takes place outside the school day, it will require the close involvement of local community organizations and charities."
There would also be a "clear system of accreditation" to mark what youngsters have achieved through voluntary work, he added.
Mr Brown proposed the idea of a National Youth Service to channel teenagers into voluntary work last year. It is due to be formally launched in September, and would become compulsory if Labor was re-elected.
The copy at Wikileaks is an early discussion draft, which parts missing and comments left by the various signatories, but what is there paints a disturbing picture of international co-operation on the issue of intellectual property.
The core of the document details how each party should deal with intellectual property matters, including costs, complaint process and legal standards. Where it goes further is with the introduction of set rate penalties based on types of infringement, and further makes no clear distinction (that I could see) between a commercial piracy outfit, and a kid at home downloading a movie on BitTorrent.
While international co-operation on issues such as these isn't out of the ordinary, it's the secrecy around the document that has caused alarm so far; and it turns out that it was justified. The net effect of this treaty is to overrule local laws and to increase the severity of intellectual property/ copyright laws in signatory nations.
Guardian, UK - Teachers are under pressure to follow the national curriculum so rigidly they can no longer react to what their pupils are learning, a teaching union leader warned.
Schools fear inspectors will criticize them if they do not obey the national curriculum to the letter, Julian Chapman, president of the largest teachers' union in the UK, said.. . .
His view echoes calls from MPs on the children, schools and families select committee earlier this month for the national curriculum to be drastically slimmed down.
The MPs said that all schools should only be required to follow a national curriculum in English, maths, science and information and communication technology - a freedom currently only extended to the government's flagship academies.
The committee called for the national curriculum to be capped so that it accounted for less than half of teaching time in schools.
Chapman said: "There is a danger that some teachers are being expected to stick rigidly to their lesson plans, rather than use their professional judgment and react to a child's enthusiasm.
Rethinking Schools - For the past several years, Chicago's model of school closings and education privatization has received national attention as another beacon of urban education reform. . . . As Chicago Mayor Daley said in a 2006 press conference, "Together, in 12 years we have taken the Chicago Public School system from the worst in the nation to the national model for urban school reform." . . .
The myth is that Chicago has created a new, innovative way to improve education-Renaissance 2010. The heroes in this myth are Mayor Daley, who introduced Renaissance 2010 in June 2004 at a Commercial Club event, and Arne Duncan, who oversaw its implementation and was its chief spokesperson. Renaissance 2010 was touted as the future of education in Chicago, with a plan to close 60 schools and open 100 new, state-of-the-art, 21st-century schools. These schools would be either small, charter, or contract schools. Renaissance 2010 was (and is) marketed as an opportunity to bring in new partners with creative approaches to education. That's the myth.
There is a completely different reality on the ground. For affected communities who have longed for change, Renaissance 2010 has been traumatic, largely ineffective, and . . .
Arne Duncan has overseen the beginning destruction of neighborhood schools with neighborhood students. Schools are no longer community pillars because many students no longer live in the area. When CPS closes schools and reopens them as Renaissance 2010 charter or contract schools, there is no guarantee or requirement that students who attended the old schools will go to the new ones-and many don't. For example, not all new schools are the same grade level as the old schools. There are complicated applications and deadlines, limits on enrollment, requirements of families, and informal selection processes that may disadvantage some students.
Families with multiple children who used to attend one school have had to scramble as schools close and their children are split up. Young children who walked to their neighborhood school have had to leave their community and cross heavily trafficked streets. Schools that are "turned around" terminate all adults in the building, including security, custodial, clerical, paraprofessional, and kitchen staff (as if they contributed to students' poor performance), causing severe dislocation and job loss in the community. Tenured teachers who are released are reassigned for 10 months as negotiated in the union contract. During this time, they receive their salary and benefits, sub some days of the week, and look for a position on other days. At the end of the 10 months if they have not found a position, they can be "honorably terminated." As one parent of a child in a closing school said, "when you close a school, you kill the heart of the community."
In a democratic society, instruments of engagement allow citizen voice in decision-making processes. In Chicago education, that instrument is Local School Councils. The most powerful parent, community, and teacher, local-school, decision-making structures in the country, LSCs' responsibilities include hiring principals, monitoring budgets, and developing school improvement plans. . . A 2005 Designs for Change study of 144 of the most successful neighborhood schools in Chicago serving primarily low-income students listed effective LSCs as a key reason for success. Despite this and other evidence documenting LSC effectiveness, CPS, under Duncan, has worked tirelessly to weaken LSCs by whittling away at their authority.
The LSCs came out of the grassroots movement to elect Harold Washington, Chicago's first black mayor, in 1983. Parents and community members across the city made alliances and worked with school reformers to fight for local school councils, which the state legislature created when they passed the 1988 Chicago School Reform Act. Chicago's LSCs are probably the most radical school reform in the country and are the largest body of elected, low-income people of color (especially women) in the United States. . .
Why is CPS working to eliminate LSCs? Consider this: Chicago has almost 7,000 LSC members. If they were organized, they would be a major force in the struggle for equity in education. In fact, CPS has worked extremely hard to underserve LSCs. . .
Duncan publicly stated in April 2007 that he wanted to break the "monopoly" of the LSCs, and in October 2007, Board of Education president Rufus Williams, in a speech to the City Club of Chicago-a major grouping of business people-likened LSCs running schools to having a chain of hotels being run by "those who sleep in the hotels." . . .
To justify Renaissance 2010, Duncan has been a strong proponent of school choice-including military schools. He was quoted in the Nov. 2, 2007, issue of USA Today saying: "These are positive learning environments. I love the sense of leadership. I love the sense of discipline."
According to the CPS website, Chicago has "the largest JROTC program in the country in number of cadets and total programs." CPS has five military high schools, more than any city in the nation, and 21 "middle school cadet corps" programs. The military high schools teach military history and have military-style discipline. Students wear military uniforms, do military drills, and participate in summer boot camps. The hierarchical authority structure mirrors the Army, Navy, and Marines, with new students ("cadets") under the command of senior students who work their way up and require obedience from those in "lower ranks.". . . All but one of the military high schools are in African American communities. . .
Before Duncan, schools could be put on probation and have external partners forced upon them, but now schools are phased out, closed, or "turned around" by private contractors (some funded by the Gates Foundation). In the turn-around model, everyone is removed from their position, from principal to custodial workers. Accountability measures drastically increase pressure to do well on standardized tests. "Extracurriculars" rapidly disappear, like art, physical education, and recess, as reported in an Aug. 25, 2008, Chicago Sun Times article.
Two thirds of the 76 Renaissance 2010 schools are charter or contract schools. Not only do charter schools need only 50 percent certified teachers, but their teachers cannot be part of the Chicago Teachers Union bargaining unit of 32,000 members. As one might expect, the union opposes Renaissance 2010. Contract school teachers can join the CTU-but only if their administration permits it. Chicago is losing its certified, union teachers as schools are closed or "turned around," and displaced teachers with long-time seniority are becoming common. . .
Franklin and Kathryn Racine-Jones unload organic vegetables out of big insulated boxes on the backs of their tricycles. It sounds pretty unremarkable really -- until you see the size of those trike boxes. They're big enough to fit say . . . two-thirds of an upright piano. And each bike costs about $10,000.
Franklin Racine-Jones: "It has both front and rear brakes. The rear brakes are two disc brakes and the front is an hydraulic brake. We have a great bell here that not only let's people know we're coming, but it's fun and produces big smiles."
Kristian: "And you have a big battery here to help you up the hills."
Franklin Racine-Jones: "Right. It's a deep cycle marine battery. It weighs about 80 lbs, but it also has a tremendous amount of torque power."
Kathryn Racine-Jones: "This morning a huge semi came to our warehouse and dropped off say 1000 pounds of produce and then we ferry that out using our electric assist trikes so they don't have to go down there and people walking around downtown don't have to deal with big trucks in the urban core.". . .
The trikes make about 11 miles per hour, which is competitive with a truck -- especially if you include the time it takes to park one of those suckers downtown.
Goldman also set plans to raise $5 billion through a sale of stock, saying it wants to become the first big bank to repay the federal loans extended during last fall's financial sector meltdown.
In reporting its results a day earlier than expected, New York-based Goldman said it earned $1.81 billion, or $3.39 a share, for the quarter ended March 31. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for a profit of $1.64 a share.
Goldman shares have surged more than 70% during the past month. . . The firm said the latest quarter's gains were driven by big profits in its fixed income business, where revenue surged to $6.56 billion - 34% above the previous record. . .
Goldman received $10 billion in funding from the Treasury Department last year as part of the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Karl Denninger, Market Ticker - You don't think being paid by the taxpayer through AIG's "conduit" for losses that didn't (yet) happen at 100 cents on the dollar might have anything to do with that, do you?
And further (and potentially much worse) there is the repeated statement by Goldman executives that they were "fully hedged" against a potential counterparty default by AIG.
One wonders - was that "hedge" to be short the equity on AIG itself, perhaps?
Why is this important?
Because if that's how Goldman hedged they got paid twice and the taxpayer literally got robbed.
Someone in Congress needs to look into this now; there are already rumblings of investigation. Those rumblings need to get a lot louder and turn into subpoenas, not "polite inquiries."
Forbes - The superstars at Harvard defied markets for years-- until now. . . Stocks were tumbling last fall as the new school year began, but at Harvard University it was as if the boom had never ended. . . Budgets were plump, and students from middle-class families were getting big tuition breaks under an ambitious new financial aid program. The lavish spending was made possible by the earnings from Harvard's $36.9 billion endowment, the world's largest. That pot was supposed to be good for $1.4 billion in annual earnings.
Behind the scenes, though, a different story was unfolding. In a glassed-walled conference room overlooking downtown Boston, traders at Harvard Management Co., the subsidiary that invests the school's money, were fielding questions from their new boss, Jane Mendillo, about exotic financial instruments that were suddenly backfiring. Harvard had derivatives that gave it exposure to $7.2 billion in commodities and foreign stocks. With prices of both crashing, the university was getting margin calls--demands from counterparties for more collateral. Another bunch of derivatives burdened Harvard with a multibillion-dollar bet on interest rates that went against it. . .
It would have been nice to have cash on hand to meet margin calls, but Harvard had next to none. That was because these supremely self-confident money managers were more than fully invested. As of June 30 they had, thanks to the fancy derivatives, a 105% long position in risky assets. The effect is akin to putting every last dollar of your portfolio to work and then borrowing another 5% to buy more stocks.
Desperate for cash, Harvard Management went to outside money managers begging for a return of money it had expected to keep parked away for a long time. . . And now, in the last phase of the cash-raising panic, the university is borrowing money, much like a homeowner who takes out a second mortgage in order to pay off credit card bills. . .
Harvard has oversize positions in emerging market stocks and private equity partnerships, both disaster areas in the past eight months. . .
Confidential data from maritime industry insiders based on engine size and the quality of fuel typically used by ships and cars shows that just 15 of the world's biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world's 760 million cars. Low-grade ship bunker fuel (or fuel oil) has up to 2,000 times the sulphur content of diesel fuel used in US and European automobiles.
Pressure is mounting on the UN's International Maritime Organization and the EU to tighten laws governing ship emissions following the decision by the US government last week to impose a strict 230-mile buffer zone along the entire US coast, a move that is expected to be followed by Canada.
The setting up of a low emission shipping zone follows US academic research which showed that pollution from the world's 90,000 cargo ships leads to 60,000 deaths a year in the US alone and costs up to $330 billion per year in health costs from lung and heart diseases. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the buffer zone, which could be in place by next year, will save more than 8,000 lives a year with new air quality standards cutting sulphur in fuel by 98%, particulate matter by 85% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80%.
The summer high jinks begin, as they have for more than 100 years, with a macabre, hokey ceremony - with Druidic, Masonic, Ku Klux Klan, and Aryan forest-worship overtones - called the Cremation of Care, which is starting in 40 minutes down by the lake. I squeeze through a hole in a chain-link fence onto the 2,700-acre property and follow an old overgrown railroad bed. To my left, below a dense tangle of California bay laurel, big-leaf maple, and understory shrubs, the muddy-green Russian River is sliding by. I didn't see any posting on that side of the property, but I know I am trespassing.
While many in the world see this gathering of the military-industrial high command as the bad guys - a sort of rogue state operating outside the constraints of democratic institutions, a favorite watering hole for what Peter Phillips, a Sonoma State University sociologist who has published extensively on the Bohemian Club, calls "the global dominance group" - this is not how the members imagine themselves. They see themselves as the moral underpinnings of America's greatness, whose central tenets are the Protestant work ethic: work hard and prosper and you'll get into that great club in the sky. The Bohemian Club is like the Opus Dei of the Protestant American establishment. Very few Jews have made it in, and even fewer blacks.
The encampment is more of a drunken blowout and an opportunity for bonding than a serious roundtable like Davos, although there is a series of lakeside talks that are enlightening about what the government has up its sleeve for the upcoming year. Kissinger is a perennial favorite. His speech nine years ago, "Do We Need a Foreign Policy?" was music to the ears of the Bush administration. In 1942, Edward Teller is said to have planned the Manhattan Project here. There's a lot of dark history in this forest retreat. It's rumored that during the presidency of Gerald Ford one Grove employee was a charming, impeccably mannered ex-Nazi, who used to drive around in a jeep that had the decal - a palm tree with a swastika on it - of Rommel's Africa campaign, which he had served in. Ford made him take it off. . .
I am here to investigate reports that the Bohemians have been desecrating their own bower. That nothing is sacred with these guys anymore. Everything is fair game. But how could the Bohemian Club, where California's forest-preservation movement began, be logging its own land, which includes the largest stand of old-growth redwoods in Sonoma County? That's what it did quietly from 1984 to 2005-11 million board feet, roughly 11,000 prime redwoods and Douglas firs. I imagine they don't need the money. It costs $25,000 to join the club and $5,000 a year after that. A 150-foot redwood with a 27-inch D.B.H. (diameter at breast height) fetches only $850 these days, and a similar-size Douglas fir $450. Critics say to sacrifice these jewels for such small change is unconscionable. And for the last three years they have been trying to double the harvest.
As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Mr Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."
At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish stocks by overexploitation - and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers. The local fishermen are now starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."
This is the context in which the "pirates" have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a "tax" on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia - and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site Wardheer News found 70 per cent "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence".
Colgate University psychologist Kevin Carlsmith concluded that people fail to recognize that a zero-tolerance policy that seems simple and effective in theory will violate their sense of justice when they see it in practice. And that's exactly the response I've been getting to my column last week about Josh Anderson, the Fairfax high school junior who killed himself on the eve of a disciplinary hearing that was likely to have ended with his expulsion for being caught on campus with a small amount of marijuana.
I've heard from hundreds of parents whose kids -- like Josh -- have gotten caught up in a punishment system that fails to distinguish between drug users and dealers. . .
Confronted with people going to jail for decades for stealing a kiddie video for a Christmas present or for lifting a Snickers bar, Californians turned against the "three strikes, you're out" legislation they had enthusiastically supported in theory. Likewise, parents who support zero-tolerance policies tend to reject them when they see some dumb teen getting expelled for acting like the dodo-head many 17-year-olds become.
In a fascinating postscript, Carlsmith asked whether a school with a zero-tolerance policy had a worse or less severe problem with drug use than a school with a more flexible approach. Those surveyed thought the zero-tolerance school had the more severe problem . . .
But he turned up in a Washington ballroom the other night to respond to questions from the winners of a high school essay contest. . .
Justice Thomas talked about his own school days, reminiscing fondly about seeing "a flag and a crucifix in each classroom." He talked about his burdens and his dark moods and about seeking inspiration in speeches and movies. And though the dinner was sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute, he admitted to an uneasy relationship with the whole idea of rights. . .
The event, on March 31, was devoted to the Bill of Rights, but Justice Thomas did not embrace the document, and he proposed a couple of alternatives.
"Today there is much focus on our rights," Justice Thomas said. "Indeed, I think there is a proliferation of rights."
"I am often surprised by the virtual nobility that seems to be accorded those with grievances," he said. "Shouldn't there at least be equal time for our Bill of Obligations and our Bill of Responsibilities?"
He gave examples: "It seems that many have come to think that each of us is owed prosperity and a certain standard of living. They're owed air-conditioning, cars, telephones, televisions."
Those are luxuries, Justice Thomas said.
"I have to admit," he said, "that I'm one of those people that still thinks the dishwasher is a miracle. What a device! And I have to admit that because I think that way, I like to load it. I like to look in and see how the dishes were magically cleaned."
A footnote attached to the report by the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis defines "rightwing extremism in the United States" as including not just racist or hate groups, but also groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority. . .
The White House has distanced itself from the analysis. When asked for comment on its contents, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said, "The President is focused not on politics but rather taking the steps necessary to protect all Americans from the threat of violence and terrorism regardless of its origins. He also believes those who serve represent the best of this country, and he will continue to ensure that our veterans receive the respect and benefits they have earned." . . .
World Net Daily - The report from DHS' Office of Intelligence and Analysis defines right-wing extremism in the U.S. as "divided into those groups, movements and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups) and those that are mainly anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.". . .
Last month, the chief of the Missouri highway patrol blasted a report issued by the Missouri Information Analysis Center that linked conservative groups to domestic terrorism, assuring that such reports no longer will be issued. The report had been compiled with the assistance of DHS.
The report warned law enforcement agencies to watch for suspicious individuals who may have bumper stickers for third-party political candidates such as Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin. . .
Chief James Keathley of the Missouri State Patrol issued a statement that the release of the report, which outraged conservatives nationwide, prompted him to "take a hard look" at the procedures through which the report was released by the MIAC.
"My review of the procedures used by the MIAC in the three years since its inception indicates that the mechanism in place for oversight of reports needs improvement," he wrote. . . . "For that reason, I have ordered the MIAC to permanently cease distribution of the militia report," he said.
From the report - Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely.
Watching Tom Curley on the Charlie Rose Show, I began to feel really sorry for him. The horrible things that were happening to his company, the threat to his business model, the vicious dogs yapping at his legs. He was a sad, dreary and bitter man, the sort of guy who might have a hard time knowing it was a new morning if his alarm didn't tell him.
Tom Curley is CEO of the Associated Press and the terrible things he was confronting included Google, news aggregators, blogs, and online journals like, well, like mine.
I kept trying to connect his misery to reality but I couldn't get out of my mind how many people come to our site each week because they've asked some question and Google has given them one of our links as a possible answer. Or how many times reporters and bloggers have sent us stories with the request or hint that we give them a virtual boost.
I got into this internet business 14 years ago when there were only 20,000 websites worldwide. Now there are more than 150 million. No one used the term aggregator back then. That was a couple of years before the Drudge Report went on the web and it was before the Washington Post had recovered from its first Internet failure.
One of the things I liked about the web was how it encouraged both competition and cooperation, not unlike the way those who do business on the water or in small communities work. They understand that part of progress involves helping others, which Americans generally accepted until the corporate greedsters took things over in the 1980s.
When Matt Drudge went online in 1997, I became fascinated by his use of links to other stories. I had initially seen the web just as a place to put all the stuff we didn't have room for in our print version, but Drudge encouraged another approach. After we started running news clips and links, our readership doubled in each of the next four years.
Part of Drudge's cleverness was that he had created a place where others wanted to be featured. What drives his audience is not his personal conservative views, but an understanding that his site is one of the best places to go for breaking news. Journalists understood this, hence the number of stories based on advance notice of a hot piece to which the reporters wanted to drive readers and impress their bosses. In at least one case, it seems one or more reporters had another objective: to get their publication to stop suppressing a story. Which is how the Monica Lewinsky story, which Newsweek was withholding, finally broke. The AP's Curley may not understand this, but plenty of good journalists have.
Yet I also realized that some publications would not understand the Internet and would not want to be linked. Our rule was simple: we would never link to or mention them again. In 14 years and more than 30 million article views, we have had exactly five such complaints. And when the AP began making threatening noises some months ago, although not specifically against us, we sent them into oblivion as well, despite the fact that their legal position thumbs its nose at the laws of fair use.
The fact is we don't need them all that much. As the song goes, "Got along without you before I met you, gonna get along without you now." Here are a few good reasons:
- The AP isn't all that good a news source for a journal with a section called Undernews. It doesn't break many interesting stories or shed new light on them. It is more like a daily Wikipedia of what's happening. Quite useful but far from indispensable.
- Many AP stories are based on press releases or testimony or public speeches that are easily found elsewhere. One of our new hobbies has become to find alternative sources for AP stories. It's not that hard at all.
- You can not copyright facts or history. If Karl Rove tells the AP that Joe Biden is "a liar," the only way it can claim copyright over those words are if Rove sold the rights to his comments to AP, which would be a big story in itself. If 35 people die when a bridge collapses, that fact does not belong to AP even if it reports it first.
- It is therefore relatively easy to simply present facts and quotes in new language without the slightest copyright infringement. All you have to do is to be able to type fast.
- The Review started as an alternative journal in 1964 with no conventional material, and certainly none from AP. A few years later we are joined by over 400 underground papers in the U.S. We still didn't need the AP; we just shared with each other. And in the process we changed America, including helping foster the civil rights, anti-war, environmental, women's and gay movements. Not even the Internet can make such a claim, and certainly not AP.
The fact is that the archaic media is just not as important as it thinks it is. And where it should be important, such as covering our imperial wars objectively, it has allowed itself to become an embedded mouthpiece of the government.
While it is true that we are small enough that the AP doesn't need us either, the same can't be said of Google as Jeff Jarvis, writing of the recent Newspaper Association of America meeting, put it:
"Yesterday, you delivered a foot-stomping little hissy fit over Google and aggregators. How dare they link to you and not pay you? . . . Beware what you wish for. You'd lose a third of your traffic overnight. If other aggregators and bloggers and Facebook all decided to follow suit, you'd lose half your traffic. On most of your sites, only 20 percent of the audience in a day ever sees your homepage and its careful packaging; 4 of 5 readers instead come in through search and links. In the link economy - instead of the outmoded content economy in which you operate - Google and aggregators and bloggers are bringing value to you; they should be charging you for the value they bring. "
Shane Richmond in London's Telegraph phrased it well: "Should plumbers complain if they can't make enough money from the business they get from the Yellow Pages?"
This from Sarah Lacey of Business Week: "Old Media's indignation is akin to a parent who tries to punish a kid by taking away the Glenn Miller records. Let's be honest: The traditional media is threatening to cut off access to an asset that's declining in value, and in many cases, no longer brings in profits. Think about that. What exactly is the "or else" here? Or else, we won't take your free traffic, and we'll just watch our subscriber rolls dwindle and ad revenue shrink all alone? . . .
"It's not just that Old Media is wrong, it's that they've played this sad hand so badly. They spent years nakedly trying to get more and more traffic from search, portals, and aggregators, and now they suddenly strike a victim pose once they realized their business models are broken beyond repair. . .
"There's always been a lot of pride associated with the Old Media world. There had to be -- we didn't make much money, we worked long hours, we had to ask uncomfortable questions and report things people didn't want reported. And then there's that endless stream of deadlines. But this week is the first time I can think of that I'm embarrassed for my profession. Once you're reduced to legal threats and whining, you're one step away from admitting total defeat. Just ask the music industry. What's next, suing our own readers for clicking on Google links?"
Danny Sullivan wrote of a complaint by the Guardian which is also on the warpath against Google:
"Gosh, it was about a year ago I sat at a panel at the Guardian, designed for its reporters, and talked about ways they could (and they wanted) to generate traffic from search engines. Doing keyword research, looking for trends, all that. And Google was by far -- by far -- the biggest referral of traffic the Guardian got. If I recall, it sent something like 3 million visitors to the Guardian per day.
"Seriously, the Tribune and the New York Times saddled themselves with debt, and that problem is somehow Google's fault? The Guardian's had a decade to figure out how to earn off the internet, and it complains to the UK government that it can't succeed?"
That AP and the Guardian don't understand this is just sign of the degree to which business is run these days by those who don't play well with others.
They don't understand that how much of success - business, political or social - is based on symbiosis and viral activity. Consider the Internet, the Obama campaign, or a thriving downtown district with a mix of business, entertainment and service all dependent on others in the same 'hood.
Instead these media run to their lawyers as an alternative to creativity and new ideas.
This seldom works because lawyers are not natural lodes of creativity and new ideas. They can put you behind a wall but that's seldom a good way to find new customers.
Arianna Huffiington summed up the situation well:
"Take online video. Not that long ago, content providers were committed to the idea of requiring viewers to come to their site to view their content -- and railed against anyone who dared show even a short clip.
"But content hoarding -- the walled garden -- didn't work. And instead of sticking their finger in the dike, trying to hold back the flow of innovation, smart companies began providing embeddable players that allowed their best stuff to be posted all over the web, accompanied by links and ads that helped generate additional traffic and revenue.
"Or go to any college, as I often do, and ask a group of students how many of them, during the campaign, saw Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin. It's usually 100 percent. Then ask how many saw it on Saturday Night Live. It's usually no more than one or two. Yes, SNL could have said tune in to NBC Saturday Night at 11:30 or don't see it at all. But Lorne Michaels and Jeff Zucker obviously don't want to go the way of Rick Wagoner and his Detroit buddies."
Or consider the fact that I didn't see the aforementioned Tom Curley video clip thanks to AP or because I watch Charlie Rose, but thanks to Huffington Post, whose boss was the other guest on the show. Huffington Post ran the clip even though it clearly disagreed with it. On the Internet even your foes can help you.
Speaking of Huffington Post and the AP, it is perhaps instructive to see what's been happening to their page views according to Alexa, with HP first and AP below it:
There is another problem with the blame-it-on-the web approach, which is that the stats don't back it up. For example , Forbes reported last year that "in 2007, Internet advertising accounted for 7% of the industry's total revenue, up from 5.4% in 2006, according to the Newspaper Association of America." And writing in the Neiman Journalism Lab, Martin Langeveld finds that, contrary to the popular impression, "whether you look at page views or time spent reading, only around 3 percent of newspaper reading happens online."
Further, the problem blamed on the Internet actually started well before the internet began to flower. The NY Times' circulation, for example, peaked in 1993 and has been falling ever since. Google didn't even start until 1996.
In 1989, the same year that the World Wide Web began, I was invited to a community meeting to discuss the Washington Post, called by its publisher Don Graham. I couldn't make it, so instead wrote up a few comments in the Review such including:
And how does the Post serve us at this critical juncture? What sort of day and city does it prepare us for? Basically it says to the reader: you are about to go out in a city which has a wealth of problems that you can't solve, pleasures which you're not important enough to enjoy, and people who, when they are not just being dull, are deceitful, avaricious or mean. . .
The Post seems at times almost maniacally determined to drain the life out of the city. What remains is a bureaucratic memo on the last 24 hours from the perspective of that small minority of people who wield power in this town.
So if I had been able to come to your meeting I would have accused you of being a wet blanket on my mornings and, by consequence, on the rest of the day. To my mind, this is as serious a charge as one can make against a daily newspaper.
I think this is so not because Post writers and editors are inherently dull, indifferent, or lack humor or emotion. Many, I have found, consider themselves more prisoners than collaborators. I think the problem stems from the fashion in which the Post attempts to rule, benignly and with noblesse oblige, from its monopoly position. Its methods, as I understand them, are not strikingly different from those of McDonald's, that is to say they depend in no small part on quality control. This control, aimed at preventing bad things from happening, has the inevitable result of preventing a lot of good things from happening as well. You end up with a product not unlike Muzak, in which both the low and high pitches are removed leaving the listener with the bland middle range.
Seventeen years later I tried again to help out the Post:
- Dump the Pulitzer porn such as your recent series on black men. That dreary combination of abstractions, stats and not all that interesting stories makes for poor journalism, especially over breakfast. Besides, you can't make up for years of ignoring the problems of black men with an occasional series even if it does win a prize.
- Put news on your front page. I define news as something that has happened, something that is happening or something that is going to happen. News is not what someone said about what is happening nor what someone perceived was going to happen nor what the editors thought the impact of something happening would be on its readership.
- The one exception to filling the front page with news would be a story or two that are just interesting, which is to say ones about which readers will ask their friends, "Did you see that story about. . ?"
- Use the "holy shit" principle of news editing. If your reaction to a story is "holy shit" and the story is true, many of your readers are going to feel the same way.
- Run more and shorter stories. You can get the edge over both the Internet and TV through quantity rather than just style of news. And the more names the better.
- Run more local stories, more stories affecting different ethnic groups, and more stories about sports people play rather than just watch.
- Go back to pyramid style reporting or at least get to the point within the first paragraph or two.
- Stop burying stories that affect ordinary readers in the business and real estate sections and put them in the front of the paper where they belong.
- Run more stories that affect ordinary readers. Handle your news from the viewpoint of your readers rather than from that of your advertisers, sources, or journalistic staff - few of whom live in some the toughest yet newsworthy parts of town.
- Have a labor section as well as a business section. After all, you have more employees than employers in your circulation area.
- Slash the number of stupid, spinning, or sophistic quotations from official sources used in your paper.
Richard Harwood once remarked of the journalism in which he began his career: "We were perceived as a lower form of life, amoral, half-literate hacks in cheap suits. Thus I was assigned to a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Nashville in the late 1940s and, with other reporters, was given lunch at a card table set up in a hallway to protect the dining room from contamination."
Moving from this dubious trade, a majority of whose practitioners hadn't gone to college, to a profession graced by graduate schools and thence to a status that was part actor and part apparatchik of a rising corporate uber-culture, journalists became ever more prominent and self-referential even as they were losing touch with both their purported constituency and their purported purpose. They became the first group in human history to dramatically improve their socio-economic status simply by writing about themselves, self-casting themselves among the very elite from whom they had once been expected to protect their audience.
So it was not surprising that this crowd met the Internet with contempt. In my 2001 book, Why Bother?, I gave a few early examples:
- Cokie and Steve Roberts wrote a column, headed 'Internet Could Become A Threat To Representative Government,' warning against the direct democracy of the Internet and saying it could threaten the "very existence" of Congress.
- A commentator on Court TV argued that acceptance of government regulation of the Net was the equivalent of growing up.
- Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes called for the removal of undesirable information from the Net. Asked on what grounds, Stahl replied, "That it's wrong, that it's inaccurate, it's irresponsible, that it is spreading fear and suspicion of the government; 10,000 reasons."
- A writer in the Washington Post warned that without gatekeepers of information -- e.g. the Washington Post -- "our media could become even more infested with half-truths and falsehoods."
- On Crossfire, Geraldine Ferraro breathlessly warned that "we've got to get this Internet under control."
And it hasn't changed all that much. The Atlantic reported recently:
"In a poll of prominent members of the national news media, nearly two-thirds say the Internet is hurting journalism more than it is helping. The poll, conducted by The Atlantic and National Journal, asked 43 media insiders whether, on balance, journalism has been helped more or hurt more by the rise of news consumption online. Sixty-five percent said journalism has been hurt more, while 34 percent said it has been helped more."
In short, the archaic media has never liked the Internet, never learned what it was about or how to use it, and now wants to blame it for all their troubles. That's probably not a great business model.