Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The deceit of a warmonger

Since liberals rabidly denounced Bush's false claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, you'd think they'd at least notice Obama's false claims that our intervention in Libya is only to provide humanitarian relief, not to take sides in a civil war. But I guess you get a free pass to warmonger if you have a (D) after your name or have a Nobel Peace Prize on your resume.

Too bad liberals are more likely to get their panties in a twist about the inane rantings of trivial people like Donald Trump or Sarah Palin than anything that actually matters. And they are mystified why the regressive conservative agenda is advancing so fast.

Monday, April 18, 2011

You read it here first!

This essay is part of an occasional feature on this blog that presents compelling stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, IsraelStine and the Trumped Up Enemy of the Month. A list of all pieces in this series can be found found here..

A few days ago, I read a very interesting piece on al-Jazeera’s website about hate media in Ivory Coast.

It reminded me a lot of a piece I published over six years ago on the exact same topic.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Taylor Luczak

Mimicking the weekly Chronicle’s piece of several days prior, The Post-Star has a nice article on Taylor Luczak, a recent Glens Falls alumnus and current Mississippi State student. Luczak may be less nationally famous than his old high school basketball teammate but he’s equally classy and perhaps even more accomplished. His resumé is quite impressive by the standard of any college student. But when you consider that he’s done all this while training and traveling around the country and spending a whole lot of time as a Division I basketball player, his academic achievements are absolutely remarkable.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Health insurance providers?

I was listening with interest to an NPR interview with Rep. Paul Ryan, who has become a media darling for his role as de facto spokesman for the Congressional Republicans on budget issues. In passing, he made a gross misrepresentation of reality.

A brief memo to Ryan: health insurance companies are NOT "providers" of health care services. They are money changers. They do not cure an ailment. They do not heal a wound. They are not providers of health care.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lee's Last Stand (guest essay)

by Mark Wilson

For those who were perplexed last April when The Post-Star doubled newsstand prices from 50¢ to a dollar, the other shoe is now dropping. Lee Enterprise, Inc., owner of the newspaper since the acquisition of Howard Communications in 2002, has announced its intention to float $1 billion worth of corporate bonds. The float is a bid to stave off bankruptcy and retire over $630,000,000 in debt coming due between now and June 2012. The bond issue would, in essence, extend the deadline to 2017 and increase the bottom line of a burden taken on in the 2005 purchase of Pulitzer, Inc. owner of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, among other properties.

Back in 2005 publishing empire builders who weren't paying close enough attention to their computers or their business pages, believed that print profits would continue to grow, spurred on by hot housing and job markets and the classified revenues that followed. It was before the housing and stock market crashes, and before it became abundantly clear that online behemoths like Google and CraigsList and Monster.com and eBay had made off with the newspaper's classified section, with no intention of giving it back.


Lee Enterprise's stock chart
and a handful of Lee press releases illustrate the dire nature of its plight. From an all-time high of $49.83/share in June 2004 (one year before buying the Pulitzer), the price had slipped to below $42 on the date the sale went through. By the time Bear Stearns collapsed in March 2008, Lee's price was in steady free fall having lost over 77% of its value. The stock spent most of the first half of 2009 trading below one dollar, nearly triggering the NYSE's delisting mechanism (2 consecutive quarters trading below a buck). A temporary goose of stock purchases lifted the stock price through the month of May, prevented delisting. The price bottomed out on Feb 18 at 24¢, less than one half of one percent of its highest value five years earlier. Since then the stock has managed to pull itself off the mat, but only so far. Over the past twelve months of trading the price hasn't surpassed $4.52, roughly one tenth of its 2004 high.

The stock price has amplified a similar, if less dramatic, decline in readership among Lee's newspapers. Circulation numbers for The Post-Star epitomize the rest of the once-robust empire. Figures available through Lee's web site, the Audit Bureau of Circulations, Wikipedia's archives and PostStar.com show a steady downward trend over recent years. (Past circulation numbers are not easy to come by and unaudited figures tend to be unreliably lofty, so please read skeptically.)

In July 2006 Lonnie Spath, at the time a staff illustrator and website monitor, created a Wikipedia entry for the Post-Star stating the circulation to be "approximately 35,000." Though that claim remains on the Post-Star Wiki page, other editors have downgraded the figure three times since then over at the Glens Falls Wiki page. On April 16, 2007, citing Lee's own figures (probably derived from an Audit Bureau report from six months earlier), Wikipedia editors pegged circulation at 33,000 daily/ 36,000 Sunday. They dropped the numbers again on May 21, 2007 to 31,500 daily/ 34,500 Sunday, based on a story from the Albany Times-Union (archive link now dead) which may or may not have repeated the most recent (April 2007) Audit Bureau figures. After Editorial Page Editor Mark Mahoney won the Pulitzer Prize in April 2009, stories run by multiple publications reported circulation of "about 30,000." More extensive stories at that time (namely the Columbia Journalism Review and Ithaca College’s web site) claimed 34,000. In October of last year, six months after the newsstand price hike, the Audit Bureau reported the Post-Star's circulation as 26,798 daily (M-F) and 30,257 Sundays —- figures that lacked the round softness of the previous weather balloons.

Wikipedia’s Glens Falls page and Lee Enterprise’s website have been updated to show the new numbers. PostStar.com on their "About Us" page still claims a higher circulation (29,000), while their advertising sales page puts the weekday print circulation higher still (at 30,500 with 32,000 Sunday).

In the broadest possible terms what the Post-Star figures illustrate is a general decline in print circulation on the order of 23% since about the time Lee's stock price started sliding.

Responding to the dismal prospects underscored by the stock price and circulation figures, the Lee Board of Directors and CEO Mary Junck, refinanced their Pulitzer notes deferring most of the payback to a Hindenburg-sized balloon payment upon maturity. When it became clear that that wouldn’t work they started jettisoning personnel, centralizing service staff, and selling off real estate. If these one-shot fixes constituted desperation tactics on Lee's part (the bloodshed has shown up as modest black ink on Lee's Quarterly reports over the past two years), the float of high-yielding Junck bonds is the company's last ditch, burn-the-house-down-to-stay-warm effort. After the news broke Monday morning, Lee stock price jumped 15.6% to from $2.97 to $3.435 before settling back to $2.87 at the end of trading Wednesday. Message from investors: you still won't be able to repay.

Meanwhile, over at PostStar.com, Managing Editor Ken Tingley is sunnily proclaiming the growth of online readership (Banner and display ad sales should be picking up any day now. Really.). This "whistling past the graveyard" of course must be done to keep up morale. But the full picture shows just how tough it is for an over-staffed and hardware-heavy medium in decline to keep ahead of the news market and delivery technology (Flash: Post-Star now available on Kindle!).


Further reading:
-Wall St. Journal
-LeeWatch

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Nuanced reaction to school cuts in NNY

The vehemently anti-union Post-Star would have you believe that the only people with concerns about slashing school spendings are the greedy, overpaid teachers. Managing editor Ken Tingley, in his typically pompous style, orders people to STFU about cuts and lectures parents to tell their kids to take one for the team. (Speaking of Tingley: here’s a way to make his head explode. Tell him you’ve figured out a way to cut the school tax levy by 0.04% but that it involves cutting his beloved baseball)

But other regional media, without such an overt agenda, are painting a more nuanced portrait.

North Country Public Radio has a story on the reaction of students to heavy budget cuts in the Beaver River district in Lewis County. Imagine that: doing a story about education cuts in which the students' point of view is mentioned!

The Plattsburgh Press-Republican had a story about the opposition of ordinary residents in Beekmantown, Clinton County, to the district's plan to slash jobs and programs.

The NCPR story is particularly poignant since the more common complaints against kids today is that they DON'T care about school or education.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Kinshasa Symphony

This essay is part of an occasional feature on this blog that presents compelling stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, IsraelStine and the Trumped Up Enemyhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif of the Month. A list of all pieces in this series can be found found here.


The public radio program Studio 360 has a piece on a fascinating documentary about the Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra, in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital. It's a compelling story from a country more known for less pleasant things.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

When 'Never Again' happened again

This essay is part of an occasional feature on this blog that presents compelling stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, IsraelStine and the Trumped Up Enemy of the Month. A list of all pieces in this series can be found found here..

Today marks the 17th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide during which at least 800,000 people were murdered. It was one of the world's worst atrocities of the century and certainly the worst to be covered during the age of cable news television. It occurred a year, almost to the week, after politicians and dignitaries in Washington solemnly promised 'Never again' while inaugurating the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In 2004, I wrote a long series of essays on the occasion of the 10th anniversary which gave a lot of information and background about the genocide.

They are as follows (yes, I know the images do not work):

-Ten years later (an intro)
-Pre-genocide history
-How the genocide unfolded
-Myths and realities about the genocide (Part 1)
-Myths and realities about the genocide (Part 2)
-The genocide's orphans
-Hate media and their role in the genocide
-International law and American law on genocide
-Post-genocide justice
-The post-genocide government
-Lessons and conclusions

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Frostie the Deadman

Here is a trailer for the young adult novel Frostie the Deadman by Zackary Richards. It's an excellent read.

'The Myth of the Useful Dictator'

Foreign Policy magazine has an excellent piece entitled 'The Myth of the Useful Dictator.'

It deconstructs the false choice that's underpinned US foreign policy for most of the last 100 years.

Monday, April 04, 2011

The big lies behind Cuomo's budget and some truths

by the Green Party of Onondaga County

The Big Cuts and Concessions in [NY Gov. Andrew] Cuomo's Budget: Cuomo proposes to close a $10 billion deficit in a $133 billion budget with 10% across the board cuts, including school aid, $1.5 billion; Medicaid, $2.85 billion; mass transit, $200 million; SUNY and CUNY operating budgets and tuition assistance; and much more. He also calls for 10,000 layoffs, a pay freeze for state workers, and concessions on public workers' seniority, pension, and collective bargaining rights.


The Big Lies Behind Cuomo's Budget:


"We don't have the money. New York State spends too much."

The Facts: New York State government spending has grown at the same rate as New York's economy.

(Source)



"Big fat salaries and pensions for state workers are busting the state budget."

The Facts: The average NY state worker earns $40,000 a year. The average NY retired state worker has a pension of $14,000 a year. Wages and benefits for state workers are only 13% of the state budget. NYS has fewer state workers per capita than 44 other states.

(Source)



"The rich will leave the state if we tax them."

The Facts: The corporate-funded Partnership for New York City study that Cuomo and others cite just made up its data. A peer-reviewed study in National Tax Journal shows the rich don't leave for lower income taxes.

(Source and another source)


The Rich Are Getting Richer Because the Exploitation of the Working People Is Up

Productivity (what workers produce per hour) is up 86% since 1978. But average hourly wages are the same today as in 1974. The rich are taking all the gains. In New York State, the top 1% received 35% of all income in 2007, up from 10% in 1980.

(Source)



The Rich Pay Lower Tax Rates

The top 1% in New York (average income: $3.1 million) pay 7.2% in state and local taxes.

The bottom 99% pay between 9.6% and 10.8% in state and local taxes.

(Source)



Extending the "Millionaire's Tax" Is Not Enough ($1.1 billion): If the "millionaire's tax" is extended, it will provide an additional $5 billion a year, but only $1.1 billion additional in the coming fiscal year because the millionaire's tax will be in effect for 9 months of this fiscal year even if it is not extended. That is not enough to cover the projected $10 billion deficit. The cuts to schools and other public services will go forward this year even if the millionaire's tax is extended.


Stock Transfer Tax ($15 billion): New York State collected between $13 and $16 billion in recent years from the Stock Transfer Tax, but gave it all back to the traders and then declared a fiscal crisis! The Stock Transfer Tax is a tiny sales tax on stock purchases, with a graduated scale topping out at 1/20th of 1 percent or $350, whichever is less, on large purchases of a stock. Compare that to the 8% sales tax on consumer goods. The tax was adopted in 1905. But since 1981, it has been collected and then immediately rebated. Keeping Stock Transfer Tax revenues would more than cover the budget deficit of $10 billion.

(Source)



Bankers' Bonus Tax ($10 billion): A few thousand Wall Street bankers and traders have given themselves $20 billion in bonuses in 2009 and 2010 after the taxpayers bailed them out from the federal level with trillions of dollars in capital injections, asset guarantees, Federal Reserve swaps of toxic assets for treasury bonds, and low-to-no interest Federal Reserve loans. A 50% tax on these bonuses would generate $10 billion a year.



Progressive Income Tax ($8 billion): If New York went back to the progressive income tax structure we had in 1972, the state would raise $8 billion more in revenue while giving 95% of New Yorkers a tax cut. In 1972, New York State had a personal income tax with 14 graduated brackets, ranging from a low of 2% to a high of 15%. Today New York has only five flatter brackets, between 4% and 6.85%. Individuals hit the top bracket at $20,000, couples at $40,000. The temporary 2009-2011 “millionaire's tax” is 7.85% on income over $200,000 ($300,000 couples) and 8.97% on income over $500,000.

(Source)



Property Tax Relief through Single-Payer Health Care: New York State has the highest property tax rates in the country due to unfunded state mandates. The biggest mandate by far is county Medicaid expenses that account for 45% of counties' property tax levies. Instead of Cuomo's proposal for capping the property tax at 2% growth per year, which will devastate schools and other public services, we can relieve counties of their Medicaid costs by a state takeover of all Medicaid costs, allowing counties to cut property taxes and still fully fund schools and public services. The best way to take over Medicaid costs is through a single-payer health care plan for all New Yorkers, which a recent state funded study concluded would reduce health care costs in New York by $28 billion a year by 2019 compared to the private insurance mandate recently enacted by the federal government.

(Source)



A Fair School Aid Formula: New York State has the 46th most unequal state school aid formula in the US. Rich districts spend more than twice as much per student as poor districts. Rich districts depend on state aid for only a few percent of their school budgets, while poor districts depend on state aid for upwards of 65 percent for their budgets. We need a straightforward, needs-based aid formula so that all students have their right to a “sound basic education” under the New York State Constitution, as affirmed by the courts in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity v State of New York decisions (2001-2006).



A Green New Deal for Full Employment: Private jobs are good, but public jobs are necessary for full employment. Spend the fiscal surplus from progressive taxation on public jobs in public works (clean energy, mass transportation, green buildings, water and sewage works modernization, environmental clean-up, etc.) and public services (schools, health care, job training, child care, elder care, youth programs, parks, libraries, etc). The increased demand from full employment will stimulate economic recovery and more jobs in the private sector. A public jobs program to create 500,000 jobs paying living wages of $14-$17 an hour would cost about $14 billion, about equal to what the Stock Transfer Tax brings in.

(Source)



Progressive Tax Reform vs. Cuomo's Austerity Budget

Progressive tax reform ($15 billion Stock Transfer Tax, $10 billion Bankers' Bonus Tax, $8 billion Progressive Income Tax) would generate $33 billion in additional revenues. After closing the $10 billion deficit, we would have $23 billion left for full employment, good schools, clean energy, mass transit, and other public needs.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The real Africa is hidden

This essay is part of an occasional feature on this blog that presents compelling stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, IsraelStine and the Trumped Up Enemy of the Month. A list of all pieces in this series can be found found here..

The Columbia Journalism Review has a great piece on why non-governmental organizations prefer bad news about Africa and how that prevents westerners from getting a more nuanced picture about life on the continent.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The wisdom of Twitter

It's amusing that it's okay to say "war on drugs" and "war on poverty" but once the military is involved it sure can't be a war. -@Diraccone

Friday, April 01, 2011

The idiocy of equating Assange and O’Keefe

In one of the stupidest things I've read in a while, the executive editor of The New York Times has decided to equate right-wing sting artist James O'Keefe and Wikileaks’ Julian Assange.

O'Keefe is well known for his controversial videos about NPR and ACORN. Assange is well known for his role in leaking various secret documents from the US government and other governmental and private institutions.

O'Keefe is under fire for deceitful editing.

Assange is under fire for not editing at all.

O'Keefe is being attacked for not telling the whole truth.

Assange is being attacked precisely because he did tell the whole truth.

Yeah, they’re doing the same thing. *face palm*

As one blog put it, according to the NYT, true may equal false, but better false than left or right.

The corporate media's appetite for simplistic dichotomies and fake moral equivalency knows no end.