28 September 2010

GOP Pledge :: A Piss Pot of Previously Failed Policies!

In large part, President Obama was elected as a repudiation of that dry-drunk sociopath George W. Bush and every lousy thing stood for by him and his minions of deep-forest hobgoblins, bridge trolls, mendicants, cut-purses, thieves, debauchees, and drunkards.  Americans had enough.  Now, the GOP, nostalgic for all that which got us here, have trotted out their failed policies of the past, stirring them into a festering piss pot they're calling a pledge.

Fortunately, most Americans, while dumbed-down and anesthetized by unrewarding, or,  no work, crushing debt, cheap watered down beer,  no way out, and diminishing dreams and hope; see through the pledge as nothing new and altogether the same as the so-called Contract with America, conjured up by that philandering fool, Newt Gingrich.

Here's some of what they are pledging to do on behalf their Wall Street, Big Oil, Insurance Tsars, and Drug Company Oligarch masters:

  • Cut Taxes for the wealthy, while the American middle-class disappears.
  • Snip away at the health care reform that is bringing relief to seniors, boomers, adult children, and those afflicted with preconditions or life-time chronic diseases.
  • Continue conditions guaranteeing windfall profits to stateless corporations during the the worst economic crises in America since the great depression.
  • Hand over Social Security and Medicare to Wall Street, Drug and Insurance companies.
  • Cut back or entirely eliminate regulations reigning in the excesses of credit card lenders, insurance companies, Wall Street bankers and financiers, and oil companies like BP and Exon.
  • Make rich the lobbyists, big corporations and special interests while driving up the deficit by trillions of dollars.

They will do all this without ever putting forth and program, proposal or policy to improve education, put America back to work, rebuild a decayed infrastructure that threatens to bring us down to third-world levels, or any plan to invest in key industries like clean energy and manufacturing.

If you're not registered to vote, do so today!.  Make certain you do vote....for a Democrat.  And volunteer to work with your Democratic precinct chair in getting out the vote on election day.  Otherwise, you're going to see mnore of the same..only much, much, much worse.

27 September 2010

Alliance for Retired Americans: GOP "Pledge" Leaves Seniors with Unanswered Questions

Last Thursday (9/23/10) Ed Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans joined U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Nancy Altman of Social Security Works in a telephone press conference call organized by the Democratic National Committee.  Here are his prepared remarks:

"My name is Ed Coyle.  I am the Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, a grassroots advocacy organization with over 4 million members and 1500 local chapters.

The Pledge to America provides few specifics for voters concerned about Social Security and Medicare. Seniors need more than buzzwords and bromides to pay their bills, see a doctor, or fill a prescription.

Conspicuously absent from today’s plan are both aspiring-Speaker John Boehner’s pledge to increase the Social Security retirement age to 70, and also the “Roadmap” of the Budget Committee’s Paul Ryan which would let Wall Street run a privatized Social Security and end Medicare as we know it.

And speaking of the Young Guns, they have nothing to worry about.  For example, in 2037, when Social Security will still be making all payments in full even if nothing is done, today’s Young Guns will be anything but young.  Paul Ryan will be 67, Kevin McCarthy will be 72, and Eric Cantor will be 74.  By the way, John Boehner will be 89… and there will still be no crisis in Social Security.

Voters need to move beyond today’s p.r. stunt and press their local GOP candidates for greater detail on Social Security: 

  • Do they support raising the retirement age? 
  • Would they cut benefits? 
  • Would they privatize Social Security and tie it to the uncertainty and greed on Wall Street?

Today’s call to ‘repeal and replace’ the new health law leaves seniors wondering:

  • What would happen to closing Medicare’s “doughnut hole” coverage gap? 
  • Would the Republicans stop payment on the over 1 million rebate checks that help seniors better afford their prescriptions drugs? 
  • Are they opposed to the new law’s free tests and screenings for life-threatening diseases? 
  • Would they repeal new long-term care insurance for middle-class families? 
  • How would they replace the new financial assistance that helps early retirees with health coverage?

Many seniors are struggling to get by, and workers of all ages are wondering when, if ever, they will get to retire. Current and future retirees have every right to demand the whole truth out of candidates for office this year.

I am confident that over the next six weeks – as voters see through all this hype and show business – they will learn the truth about the Pledge to America and they will see quite clearly which candidates are on their side and which ones are not.

24 September 2010

"60 Plus" TV Ads Lie and Scare Seniors

FLASH: Alliance for Retired Americans, Washington D. C.

A pharmaceutical industry front group that battled the new health care reform law with scare tactics is using the same techniques in more than a dozen congressional races to try to elect Republicans who have vowed to repeal health care reform. The 60 Plus Association has, according to the Federal Election Commission, spent $5,516,241 on independent campaigning so far this year, with 100 percent benefiting Republican candidates. 

Click on HERE for The Washington Post's race-by-race breakdown of the spending. 

According to the Center for Media and Democracy, 60 Plus, which claims it is a "nonpartisan senior advocacy group," really operates counter to seniors' best interests by staking out positions that explicitly favor the pharmaceutical industry. Their ads are running in Arizona, Florida, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin - states with a high percentage of seniors.

"With a drug-money-fueled war chest, they are likely to pop up elsewhere," according to the AFL-CIO blog. In Pennsylvania, for example, the ad attacks Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D), claiming that Kanjorski's vote on health care reform legislation threatened Medicare payments to seniors, when, in fact, the new health reform law does not cut Medicare. The new law actually takes money away from the big corporations who were receiving millions in taxpayer subsidies and instead puts that money back into the Medicare Trust Fund to strengthen Medicare for current and future retirees. To learn more, go to HERE.

23 September 2010

Democrats Alert: Change the Framework and Outcome in 2010

Yesterday, we wrote of the advantage that Republicans are gaining from angry and apathetic voters and the success they are having delivering a message of big-government spending and waste, federal take over, and a perceived failed economic policy.  Democrats, on the defensive, are losing donors and traditional big-dollar contributors who are sitting out 2010 preferring to rebuild for 2012.

A recent tracking poll and focus group  study conducted by Democracy Corps (Carville * Greenberg)suggests that Democrats can still overcome this powerful Republican message by changing the framework of the message to move young people, unmarried women, and minorities, and the more conservative white working class back to the Democrats. 

The essence of their study is that the election is not fixed in concrete and a tidal wave of Republican success is not inevitable.  Based on their study, they recommend several things.

First, Democrats must change the context of their message to that of an "against Wall Street outsider", saying, "We need to change Washington for the benefit of the middle-class".  This context moved 16 percent of voters to be more supportive of Democrats than Republicans.

Then, within that context and message, Democrats must communicate a real commitment to change Washington in order to take it out of the hands of Wall Street to the benefit of the middle class.  The issue is very clear, Democrats have to be reformers reigning in corporate power.

Democrats would weaken this message if they engage in attacks on Republicans for spending cuts harming the middle class.  While this particular message has resonance and generates head nods of agreement, it does not move voters as effectively as does hearing of the determination of the candidate to change Washington first!

Finally, lip-service will not suffice.  Voters want to know precisely how the candidate will help the middle-class, how corporate spending will be brought under control, and, maybe most importantly, has the candidate "walked in our shoes"?

Democrats must overcome the perception that they have gone Washington, backed bailouts, forgotten all their previous campaign promises, and are cashing in. Despite all this baggage being toted by Democrats, Republicans remain very suspect, and can quickly lose what is a rather tenuous support growing out of emotionally volatile feelings of despair, anger, and apathy.

22 September 2010

Obama: Not A Lot Of Help In 2010

Special Two-Part: Today...Big Worries For Dems!

We progressives, liberals and leftists are facing some very daunting issues this election cycle.  The certifiably insane tea-baggers, along with fundamentalist, hard-shell religionists, and the ever present reactionary right-wing, have captured the Republican party and are on their "Great March"; burning, pillaging, and trashing everything and everyone not associated with their race and class based hate-war on Democracy and working families.  This is compounded by a president who seems determined to ride an already spavined centrist philosophy which rewards Chamber-of Commerce Republicans and Wall Street mendicants while those of us who worked so hard to elect him to bring about change are left shaking our heads in disbelief--Obama is making Clinton look good, and that ain't all that easy!

Republicans hate him, and many, many Democrats are growing less fond of him. The glibness of the cliche' recently launched by the White House that, "we're must be doing something right, if everyone is unhappy with us", is mere whistling through the graveyard, and hardly suffices in the real world of politics.  Believe me, that left many pols snickering!

Politics is about money, and at the moment, at the most critical time in this election cycle, traditional liberal contributors and donors are leaving their checkbooks in the desk.  According to a very reliable and well-placed activist based in Washington, there are several reasons for this.

First, he says, is Obama.  The president is not providing the leadership or doing the things which progressives expected of him.  While not yet toxic, too many Democrats are avoiding any linkage to him or his administration this election cycle--some, such as Bill White here in Texas, have built firewalls between themselves and the president and, not all that secretly, dread any successful Republican attempt to link them to Obama.

Secondly, the current framework of debate seems to favor the hard right, and traditional donors to leftist, liberal, and progressive causes are taking a wait and see approach, preferring to let whatever happens in November happen, and use their money to build for 2012.  In effect, the money is setting out this round.

What makes this particularly bad and worrisome is that the Republican message targeting "big" government, deficits, spending taxes, and the recession it helped spawn has seeped into the minds of independents causing too many to see Democrats as the source of "out of control spending".

So, here we are between the proverbial "rock and a hard place" while someone is pounding us with sledgehammers of debt, spending, failed recovery, and government take over of our lives. 

That is the message that is gaining resonance as the rabble from the tea-baggers, abetted by the corporate media, continue to prance around their bonfires of anti-this and anti-that without ever proposing a sound solution for any of the problems facing this nation...other than do nothing, and let the wealthy get richer.

They are framing the debate, and Democrats, with or without their traditional financial backers, and with or without Obama, must refocus and frame the debate in a new and positive way that shows, to their advantage, that they can handle the economy and bring about the changes which will restore the middle class and create jobs for working families.

Democrats will have to accomplish this without enough money and burdened with the baggage of a president seemingly intent on the pacification of Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce.

Tomorrow: We will examine how this might be done.

20 September 2010

RIP - Emile Shaw

 Long time activist, Holocaust survivor, and social justice leader, Emile Shaw, died September 12th, at the age of 81.  His wife, family, and many friends were at this side.

Mr. Shaw was a former president of the New Mexico Alliance for Retired Americans and a much-respected leader in the Albuquerque, New Mexico peace and justice community as well as numerous other labor and leftist movements.  Earlier this month, he and his wife, Rose, celebrated 60-years of marriage.

At the age of nine, he and his parents (one was an American citizen) escaped Nazi Austria and came to New York city.  Before retiring and relocating to New Mexico, he and Rose taught for 30-years in the New York public school system.  You can read more at the Alliance for Retired American's blog.

As a remembrance, Emile's family asks that you make a donation to your favorite charity, social justice organization or to Peopleworld.org.

17 September 2010

Shut Up, Baldinger--Ines Sainz Did Not "Bring It On Herself"

If you are following the Inez Sainz flap, you have heard by now that former Dallas Cowboy lineman and, for the moment, Fox Sports commentator, Brian Baldinger (no, I'm serious, that's his name) has added his two-cents to the debate.  It's called two-cents, because that is usually the real value of the unenlightened opinion being put forth.  In Baldinger's case, I'd say a penny would be a gross over evaluation.

The short version of the flap is that Ms. Sainz asserts she was the victim of cat-calls, whistles, and other overtly sexual, and sexist, and intimidating repartee' and behavior in the locker room and practice field of the New York Jets NFL football team.  Ms. Sainz is a veteran professional reporter from Mexico.  She, also, does not shy from the limelight, and seemingly has never hesitated to wear revealing and/or form fitting clothes.  The internet is full of sites featuring her "hot bod" photos.

But, Baldinger's opinion that Sainz "brought it on herself" by wearing revealing apparel is resonate of every damned rapist's, abuser's, spouse beater's, molester's, and violator's cop-out that she "brought it on herself" or "she was just asking for it!".   That is not to equate Baldinger with such--absolutely not, or suggest that he is any of those! . But, it is a pervasive mindset based in willful ignorance and still held by too many men--especially those boy-men who see themselves as engaged in "macho" professions..  I have often felt a bit of sympathy for Baldinger---imagine the crap he caught in Junior and Senior High with a name like "Baldinger".  But, putting all that aside, his inserting himself into the flap with such gratuitous nonsense is not easily understandable or forgivable.  There is no valid mitigation available for what is reported as some very crude, rude, churlish and retarded adolescent behavior by some of those NY Jet's players and coaches.  And, he should know better.

If Ms. Sainz arrived dressed inappropriately for the locker room or practice field the recourse was very simple.  Ask her to leave, and if she refused, have security escort her from the premises. The recourse is not intimidation, or embarrassment, or discomfort through sexually suggestive displays or words.  But, even beyond that, who determines what is appropriate attire?  Are women to wear Mu-Mus or Mother Hubbards when reporting on sporting events or from team facilities?  If a woman is shapely and pretty is she to wear sack cloth or Burka to disguise that.  Or, do we really think that our mothers, wives, sisters, aunts, daughters,  nieces, and female friends, neighbors or acquaintances are fair game for harassment because someone finds them attractive or sexy?

We don't seem to put restrictions on young, athletic, and fit (well packaged) male reporters wearing skin tight trousers or form-fitting tailored shirts, do we?  No, Ms. Sainz did not bring it on herself, despite Baldinger's half-assed assertion otherwise!

16 September 2010

The Tea Party: Racing To History's Garbage Pail

People are taking the so-called Tea Party far more seriously than it deserves.  It is not a new "movement".  It is the same 25-30%, or so, of the population, that has always been there, living in delusion and fantasy of creating a 18th-century nation where one can move on when the closest neighbor's smoke becomes visible, and never have to pay taxes, or pay attention to any authority other than personal whim or that which comes to them in dreams.

For the most part...nah..actually every damned one of them is willfully ignorant, anti-intellectual, pseudo-populist, and filled with misplaced anger at what they call big government, wasteful spending, an invasion of hordes of "illegals" they believe are taking jobs and sopping up socials services.  They will scream in your face that President Obama is a Kenyan, Socialist, Muslim, Terrorist bent on the destruction of America and enslavement its people.  According to that philandering fool, Newt Gingrich, who is obsessively pandering to them, those of us who support the president are part of his "Socialist Secular Machine!"  They make no effort to conceal their racism and xenophobia.  Many of them mouth Christian platitudes, which they in turn belie with hideously un-Christian characterizations of all that they oppose.

They are overwhelmingly white, extremely emotional, middle-aged, and affluent enough to show up at day-time, workday rallies,  incoherently angry and red-faced from self-induced frustration. They really are no more than the descendants of the same lunatic fringe that supported the likes of Barry Goldwater, George Wallace and Ross Perot.  They are later day John Birchers.  They are the "same as it always was" collection of butt-scratching, nose-picking, fly-caressing, nincompoops who gave Goldwater 39% of the popular vote in 64, Wallace 14% in 68, and Perot 19% in 92.  On average, over time, that is 24% of the popular vote...hardly the "tidal wave of change" sweeping America narrative fostered and foisted by the corporate media.

If  a plebiscite were held today on the George W. Bush tax-cuts for the wealthy, only 31% would support them.  Note, that number keeps showing up; people who still support our latest wars of invasion and occupation, or support the excesses of the Bush administration or claim identity with the "tea party". 31% of the population gone moon-barking, car-chasing nuts!

Were it not for an inept and incestuous corporate media in search of a simplified narrative to explain the extraordinarily complex world of American politics, and primarily reporting on each other, and itself,  these nincompoops would not even be in the public awareness.

You can bet last summer's straw hat against a stale doughnut that they're not going to get a hell of lot of money from the GOP.  AND, believe this, they might pass the hat at rallies, but they sure as hell aren't going to gin up any big-time contributions among themselves, seeing as how broke paying taxes keeps them!

The garbage pail of history where lie Perot, Wallace, Goldwater, Bush, John Birch, awaits them after this little flurry!

14 September 2010

Hank Gilbert: Our First Endorsement

I liked Hank Gilbert from the moment we first met at a Health Care Reform rally a little over a year ago.  Hank is the kind of Texan that you think of  when you hear someone say, "He's a Texan"; tall, broad-shouldered, pearl white stetson, honest, straight-talking , and unafraid to call a spade a dirty shovel!  We've all heard the story, from back in the day, of "one riot-one ranger".  Well, Hank is that sort of Texan.

As I got to know Hank a bit from sharing platforms and podiums with him, talking with him, and hearing him speak at gatherings, and reading about him out on the campaign trail, my like grew to respect.  Here's a man that, at the age of ten, began taking on a man's size work load on the family ranch.  Now, some of you "modern" Texans may not know what that means, but let me tell you as a person who, along with his cousins, all preteens, rose out of bed before dawn to take to the fields of Southern Illinois until sunset, in the heat of August, to walk behind a mule-drawn baler and wagon to wrestle, lug, lift cuss and shove "square bales" of hay for our uncle , I know how such work shapes a fellow and prepares him for life.  I don't know how much Hank got paid back then, but my cousins and I were grateful for some picture-show money and a bottle of pop.

Hank recently revealed that, under the neglect of current ag-commissioner, Republican, Todd Staples, inspections of the state's gasoline pumps have been allowed to dwindle from annual inspections to only once every four years, resulting in 20%-40% of Texas gasoline pumps overcharging hard-working Texans already paying outrageous pump prices.  At that press conference, he cited a specific gas-station in Tyler with out-dated inspection stickers on its pumps.

Yesterday, while Hank was holding a follow-up press-conference across the street from that very station, a state inspector showed up to conduct an inspection.  It was caught by a TV station's news cameras.  KETK-TV attempted to get a statement from Staples, who characteristically exercised his right to willful arrogance, and did not deign to respond to their request.  Just another example of Hank getting it right, while Staples was getting it all wrong.  Most politicians will climb a tree to tell a lie rather than stand flat-footed and tell the truth,  Well, from Hank, you're going to get the truth, no matter how much it smarts!

If Hank Gilbert's name sounds familiar, you may remember him as a leader in the fight against Texas Republican Governor, Rick Perry's, attempt to inflict the so-called, Trans Texas Corridor on unwary Texans.  This was a plan that would have taken the family homes, ranches and farms from Texans (some were in the same family since before statehood)  in order to build a gigantic toll road from Mexico to northern states, with the concession for that toll road going to a Spanish company.  Mexican trucks would have gotten a cursory "wave-through" inspection at the border with the effect of putting American truck drivers out of business.  Lading and loading would have shifted from American ports to Mexico, again putting American docks and dock workers out of business.  Hank fought and won that battle, and as seen yesterday, he continues to fight and win for Texans.  As the head of our Department of Agriculture, Hank Gilbert will continue to fight and win for working families and seniors.

The Texas Department of Agriculture oversees a large department with extensive and disparate responsibilities including licensing, regulation, crops, livestock, the coming broad band revolution, school lunch program, pesticide regulations, and feral hog abatement programs just to name a few.

13 September 2010

House Progressive Caucus Joins Fight To Save Social Security

Democrats, led by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, are finding the courage to face down the White House's fiscal commission with a resounding NO! to Social Security cuts.

Leaks from the commission indicate that even some of its Democrats would support measures to extend the retirement age to 70, eliminate cost-of-living increases, employ some form of "means testing" in order to deny earned benefits to retirees of a certain income level, and to revisit "privatization".  Earlier, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll returned numbers showing that a overwhelming majority (68%) of Americans are "uncomfortable" with candidates supporting such radical views.

Talking Points Memo Blog, reports that if the commission recommends cuts or other changes to Social Security, the caucus will say, "You will lose our support".  Also, Democrats are preparing a letter to be sent to President Obama declaring that Democrats will pledge to vote against any legislation coming from the commission unless Social Security is taken off the table.  The letter will include words stating firm opposition to any attempts at "privatization", cuts, or efforts to diminish Social Security in any way.

Earlier we reported on a sense of Congress letter initiated by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).  Now that the Congressional Progressive Caucus has signed on and is taking a leadership role in opposing the commission indicates that opposition to this latest outrageous assault on Social Security by Republicans and some lick-spit Blue Dog Democrats is growing and gaining traction in efforts supported by many grassroots groups, including the Alliance for Retired Americans, to tie the hands of the commissions on its suspected ploy of undermining Social Security in the name of deficit reduction.

It is expected that the letter will be sent to the president once members of congress have returned later this month and the number of signers has climbed.

10 September 2010

Newspapers: It's Over For Them & Online Will Not Save Them!

PART TWO: Circulation and Marketing>Models For Failure

If you have an opportunity to sit down and talk with any of the ever declining number of people still in the newspaper business, you will find, to a person, they will say the reason for the decline of newspapers is the internet.  They are abjectly and utterly wrong, and merely whistling through the graveyard! 

Yesterday, I gave you a perspective on how greed, arrogance, elitism and stupidity have driven off subscribers, readers and advertisers.  Today, we'll examine circulation and marketing practices that have all but driven the nails in the coffin and tossed on the first shovel of dirt.

Consider this.  The circulation department of any newspaper contains some of the best  and worst paid people in the company.  Managers generally make pretty good money...as is befitting their many responsibilities.  But, the worst paid, virtually within the entire company, not just the department, are the men and women who are most in daily contact with the customers--the carriers and customer service people and their direct supervisors.  This is more stupidity and short-sightedness.  You do not put your most valuable asset in the hands of under-paid, overworked employees, if you are wise.  Or, if you expect to succeed.

The circulation department should be any newspaper's "Consumer Marketing Department".  It seldom is, and is considered by most publishers and newspaper executives to have an operational orientation rather than marketing.  Oh yeah, it might execute some of those "sales" promotions with discounts and premiums that I wrote of yesterday.  Such campaigns usually feature some snotty, urban-sounding, telemarketer or else a shaggy solciitor or carrier at the door.  Precisely how you want to "image" your product, right? But, as to a real "deciding" voice in strategy, design, or content?  Forget about it. Never mind that this is the department most in touch with customers and most able to advise what they want.

As a result, too many circulation managers focusing on "sales" & "starts"  lose sight of (that is, if they ever had it) their primary responsibility: Acquiring and Retaining readers and subscribers by meeting their delivery/distribution needs with a product that is wanted or needed.  They blithely "hope" that their $7.50 an hour (or less) customer service people will be able to untangle the hard-feelings of customers aggrieved by the vagaries of some part-timer, netting a couple of hundred a week, hurling newspapers in the general direction of their home from a speeding car.  And since these delivery people are always "independent contractors", they get no supervision or training other than some cursory "best-practice" guidance.

It is a model fraught with peril begging for problems.  Most of those well-paid managers spend more time dealing with problem resolution, internal squabbles, angry customers, and dodging or explaining away complaints that find their way to the executive wing than they do on their real jobs.  As a result, most circulation managers dither around from project to project, staying busy while confusing activity with result.

I once made a publisher furious when I pointed out to him that people lined up just before noon on Sunday to by beer, but I never saw people standing around news-racks, or in C-Stores waiting for the newspaper to hit the stands.  This man rose to great heights in the Hearst corporation...but, he didn't get it; and as far as I know, still doesn't...Hearst's newspapers aren't doing any better than anyone else's!

There are plenty of products that people want and buy eagerly, while choosing one brand over another, based on some sort of advertising position or "branding" statement.  Those products use "pull" marketing to attract customers or buyers.  The market for these products are people who already know "what's in it for them" and when they buy, base their buying decision on which product or service will do the best job of meeting their needs.

Newspapers have to be "pushed".  Tell that to publishers or managing editors and watch their faces turn red and their eyeballs pop out.  They spend tons of money on branding, imaging, or promoting some new feature  without ever having done the marketing groundwork of researching market needs, and designing product and features to meet those needs.  They hardly ever engage professional survey firms to talk to former subscribers and readers to find out why they left.  Or, for that matter, to any other market segment.  Oh yeah, sometimes they mount amateurish in-house questionnaires for their poorly-paid, over-worked, barely-trained customer service people to do in addition to dealing with irate complaints about billing or delivery problems--yep, that's really a model that will give you some marketing insight.

Instead, the publisher, and a few other execs head-huddle, and churn out some new project or campaign based on their "experience, knowledge and insight".  Or, at the more "enlightened" newspapers there is a "marketing committee" made up mostly of middle-aged white guys, with a smattering of token women, younger managers, or minorities who are generally too intimidated, awed, or fearful to rebut or challenge most of the utter nonsense coming out of these committees.

So, they launch these vast, expensive, time and energy consuming projects, or campaigns, which distract attention and effort away from the primary job of acquiring and retaining readers, subscribers, and advertisers through determination of their needs and putting forth a product that meets those needs--AND THEN TELLING THEM!.

In short, you want to sell me a newspaper, don't tell me what features you have, don't tell me how proud you are of being in business since Hector was a pup.  You need to tell me what's in it for me, and why I need to Act Now!  Why am I going to be better off by by buying your product?  You need to tell me, over-and-over -and-over.  Don't give me a branding statement and expect that to pull me to a buying decision.  You need to push me to that decision by telling me why I am going to be better off!

Okay.  Now. If the internet is not the real problem, why in the name of hell do newspapers think it will be their salvation?  They have been at it for fifteen years now, some of the best minds in the business (yes, I know, that's not necessarily saying much) have yet to come up with a successful business model that generates the revenue needed to staff a professional newsroom so they can continue with their core expertise..delivery of in-depth local news, information and entertainment, and advertising.  The reason they have not succeeded, is that there is no model to be found!

Got newspaper stock, dump it!  That old dog has had its last hunt, and just ain't gonna leave the porch much longer!

But there are success stories.  Hispanic newspapers, in particular, are filling the gaps left by the dailies grappling with...well, whatever it is they are grappling with so they can appear busy.arranging deck chairs as the ship sinks.  Those Hispanic publications know what their market wants and they provide it at a fair price and have been very successful in capturing advertising dollars.  That is a business model that predicates success--find out what your market needs and wants (ain't always the same), meet those needs and wants, let the market  know you are meeting those needs and wants, and close the deal with a fair price.

09 September 2010

The New York Times - Gone In 5 Years!

Wednesday, the publisher of The New York Times reiterated a prediction of the imminent demise of the newspaper's print edition, which he first predicted about five-years ago. Back then publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, said the newspaper's print-edition would be gone within a decade.  Now, he is tacitly confirming recent predictions by industry analysts that America's Newspaper of Record will no longer publish a print edition by 2015--five years!

Sadly, and inevitably, the same fate awaits almost all printed newspapers in this country.  There are exceptions, such as Spanish language newspapers which flourish---hold this thought, I'll come back to it tomorrow.

There is a desire, particularly among those who are really responsible for newspaper's declines, to blame the internet.  You can include this shallow, tunnel-visioned way of thinking as part of the problem, not identification of the problem.  It is always easier to point fingers and assign blame than to assume responsibility.  Newspapers began losing subscribers, readers, and advertisers long, long before the advent of online news, information and entertainment sources.

The death of newspapers (and their online efforts) is easily attributable to several things.

First:  Publisher's greed.  The moment that the accountants glommed their sweaty hands on subscription fees as a way to jack up revenues circulation began its decline-advertisers pay their rates based on circulation, among other things.  In short, newspapers priced themselves out of inner-city, and working-family neighborhoods, and mounted outrageous pressure sales schemes targeting affluent suburbs using discounts, and merchandise give-aways.  They demanded multi-month payment in advance.  They rejected and left behind their most loyal readers.  Over the short term it worked.  Long term, it has become a dismal failure as economics now force scaled-down products to compete for subscribers without bribes, irrelevant inducements, and give-aways!

Equally devastating to the bottom line was the way publishers gouged and ignored the pleas and complaints from advertisers during the go-go 80's and 90's.  Doubt me?  Take a look around at the proliferation of the FREE Real Estate, Automobile, "Saver", and neighborhood publications out there.  Local advertisers find them more effective and less costly than newspapers.  They exist because newspapers created their need.

National advertisers also bailed out and took their free-standing inserts to direct mail programs.  Those inserts on Sunday constitute a major amount of revenue and...the newsroom will not like to hear this,  are a significant reason for Sunday newsstand or news-rack purchase.  But, if it comes in the mail for free, why do we have to shell out two-bucks or more to get it?  We don't!

Remember this. Loyalty is the absence of something better!

Editorial Elitism and Sheer Stupidity: Aside from greed, the arrogance of the newsroom is the singularly easiest identifiable factor in the readership exodus.  Let me cite some things that they ignore, disregard or choose not to acknowledge.  They are not in competition with TV or radio--yet they behave as though they were.  Except for national newspapers, their lead stories ought not be national or international news.

Locally, they just can't match the immediacy of television or radio. Yet they persist in rehashing, the next morning, that which was worn out and stale by 10:00PM the night before.  Folks, hitting yourself in the head with a hammer does not make the headache go away. Cheez!  Catch a clue, will you?

Look, TV and Radio are little more than headlines services, throwing out a few stories between commercials per airtime bloc, with each taking little more than 60-seconds to one minute to air.  The network, cable and national newspapers adequately (ahem) cover world and national news.  Local newspapers can't compete with that, but my God, how they try; filling their news holes with day-old, wire-service accounts of world and national news that has already been exploited to sheer mind-numbing exhaustion elsewhere.  Sometimes I think every news staffer has visions of a desk at The NYT or WaPo.

This leaves local, regional and state news as their franchise.  Please, do this for me.  Take several of your local newspapers, lay them out on the kitchen table (that's where we blue-collar types do our best thinking) and see what proportion of the lineage is devoted to local news, information, and entertainment.  Chances are you'll be treated to a rehash of Karzai's corruption, but will play hell finding out why there were sirens on your street last night, or an account of your company's softball game, or kid's soccer game.  The closer it is to me, the more interested I am.

Turn to the editorial and op-ed page, and see whether or not your newspaper gives a fair, balanced and equal voice to divergent opinions and columnists across the political spectrum.  I'm betting a doughnut against last summer's straw hat, they don't!  Hell, we don't need liberal readers!  Hell, we don't need conservative readers!

As I said, elitist and stupid.

Tomorrow: Circulation & Marketing Dithering, Disaster, & Why Online Is Not The Answer.

Please note: The writer worked for over three decades for newspapers in Major Markets to Podunk towns in positions ranging from carrier to Group Marketing Director, and Interim Circulation Director of the Oakland Tribune, and Circulation Director at a Midwest daily. Most recently, before the position was eliminated, he was the promotion/sales manager of a small-market newspaper in Texas.

08 September 2010

PacifiCare Facing $9.9-Billion Legal Action

Today, we're learning that the inevitable is happening:  The czars of the nation's largest health insurance oligarchies are poised to clobber us with huge rate hikes and blame it on health care reform, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Meanwhile, republican dough-boy strategist, Karl Rove is leading a campaign of disinformation composed of lies, damned lies, distortion, and omission.  Clearly, they're banking on using their lies and damned lies to foster big wins in November, so they can continue their campaign of destruction of the middle class, and further enrichment of the already obscenely wealthy insurance czars and drug company oligarchs.

All this has not passed unnoticed.  Back in June, I wrote of Humana's back-tracking on promises regarding their Medicare Advantage plans.  At that time, some right-wing, insurance company apologist, named Dave Fiflit, of Iowa, took me to task for not knowing of what I was writing and challenging my command of the facts.  "Dave of Iowa" fell silent, after I took him by the hand and led him to the truth!

Now, in an in-depth, copyrighted, investigative-story by reporter, Duke Helfand, of the L.A. Times, we find out that California is launching what amounts to a $10-billion action against mega-insurance company, PacifiCare.  That state's Department of Insurance claims 1-million violations of state laws by PacifiCare after it was bought out by America's largest health care insurance company, United HealthGroup inc.  (This was the crux of the argument "Old Dave of Iowa" gave me back in June.  He was willfully ignorant of the fact then that United had acquired Secure Horizons).

California has a lengthy laundry list of claimed abuses and violations, which include; "...intentional disregard for the interest of doctors, hospitals and patients in California with the pursuit of cost cutting above all else", according to, Adam Cole, the state's insurance department's general counsel.  The state's legal claims include allegations that the insurance giant mismanaged medical claims, lost thousands of patient documents, failed to pay doctors what they were owed, and ignored calls to fix the system.

A PacifiCare PR-flack issued a typically lame response, "...PacifiCare pays its claims promptly and accurately."

Cole said, "It's a story of intense corporate greed."

California is seeking a $10,000 fine for each of the 992,936 violations it alleges, potentially making it the biggest action of its kind.  The vast dimensions of the case were revealed as it was under review in a California administrative law court this past year.

Earlier, the state's Department of Managed Health Care ( a separate entity from the one now pursuing PacifiCare) fined and collected from the insurance giant, $2-million, over allegations that it had improperly denied medical claims for HMO policyholders.  PacifiCare paid, but denied wrongdoing.

Our suggestion is to keep a close eye on this case.  You can be certain that Attorneys General, and other agencies, of cash-strapped states across the nation will.  And, you can also be certain that the greed, misfeasance, arrogance, and abuses of  the Humana/Secure Horizon/PacifiCare and all other corporate kith and kin are not isolated to California.

This is the second time, we've reported on the nefarious dealings of this huge health-care insurance oligarchy.  It will not be the last.

07 September 2010

Republican = Lies & More Lies::The Evidence!

I am continually asked for evidence of Republican lies and efforts to disenfranchise voters.  Evidence?  You want some stinking evidence...here:

This picture is of people rallying in Florida to protest the 2000 right-wing's vote theft:

This is how it appeared throughout America after a Republican group in Houston doctored it!

Pretty damned stinky, isn't it?

Go HERE   To Read the full account...

03 September 2010

Congresswoman Giffords Joins Fight to Save Social Security!

Tell Congress: Don't Raise Retirement Age!

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) plans to introduce a resolution expressing the sense of Congress against raising the retirement age when Congress reconvenes this month. "This resolution, especially with a large number of cosponsors, can be a good counterweight to proposals at the Fiscal Commission to raise the retirement age," said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans.

In a "Dear Colleague" letter sent to members of the House recently, Giffords said that an increase in the retirement age is simply a cut in benefits. Current cosponsors include: Reps. Travis Childers (D-MS), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Laura Richardson (D-CA), Diane Watson (D-CA), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and Joe Courtney (D-CT). To ask your Member of Congress to co-sponsor the resolution, go HERE

"For 75 years, Social Security has been a bedrock promise.  Seniors have earned it with a lifetime of hard work and depend on it to live independently and with dignity in their retirement. That's why I unequivocally oppose proposals to cut Social Security benefits and balance the budget on the backs of seniors by raising the Social Security retirement age," Giffords wrote in her letter. Rep. Giffords listed several reasons for not raising the retirement age: the surplus within the Social Security trust fund is estimated to grow to more than $4 trillion by 2023; also, the normal retirement age, currently 66, was already increased by two months each year in 1983 until it reaches 67 in 2022.

In addition, she wrote that raising the retirement age will place a greater burden on older, blue-collar workers in physically demanding occupations, like nurses, auto workers and teachers, who may not be able to continue to work in their jobs into their mid-to-late 60s; that the burden of raising the retirement age will fall most heavily on older workers with limited employment opportunities; and that life expectancy numbers are skewed in favor of men, higher income earners, and the more educated.

02 September 2010

Simpson Blames Fiscal Mess On Veterans!

"You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

There are words which resonate, reverberate, and echo through the consciousness of those of us who have lived long enough to have a sense of history.  We find inspiration and fortitude in them.

Not so strangely, those words have invariably sprung forth from people of liberal belief in the concept of decency, justice, fairness, dignity, and respect for all peoples: "I have a dream", "Wrong is still wrong if every one's doing it, and right is still right if no one's doing it!" and, of course, those words above, spoken to a mentally unbalanced Senator Joseph McCarthy by Joseph N. Welch during the "Red Scare" Army Hearing in the 1950's

Now, here we are, more than a half-century later with another deranged (former) senator, Alan Simpson, outdoing even the drunken and deranged McCarthy with venomous attacks on people deserving his respect.  Recently, we've written of his manic diatribes against the Older Women's League and seniors, working people and retirees everywhere and the outrage expressed by leaders from many national organizations.

But now, like McCarthy he has gotten carried away with himself, and has attacked veterans as being one of the causes of the current financial mess.  You breathed agent orange--it's your fault, Jack!  You have PTSD, or lost an arm or leg, or suffer a head injury, or are blinded, scalded, burned or otherwise maimed?  Too bad, so sad--you're costing this country a boatload of money!

Now, let me pause and quickly answer the above question.  No, the ridiculous old bastard has no sense of decency at all! 

Simpson: "The irony (is) that the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us save the country in this fiscal mess."

Outrageous in it's implications that veteran's with health problems, and who are using the benefits they were promised and earned, are somehow at the root of the country's financial mess; the statement demonstrates a callous disconnect from reality.

Simpson, is a former Republican Senator, now serving on the President's deficit commission is a veteran himself and was once chairman of the Senate's Veteran's Affairs Committee.  He really ought to know better.  Which leaves us believing that his tawdry hi-jinks are not mere lapses in self-restraint, but more along the order of a major deterioration of his mental capacities.  Either that, or he's another example of the willful ignorance of the right-wing ideologues.

The accusation is scurrilous and appalling.  This is particularly true when we have, over the past decade, created ten of thousands of new combat veterans with service connected health problems.  Is it his plan to scapegoat veterans as he already has seniors, retirees, the elderly, the disabled, orphans and widows(ers)?

Obviously so!  No, no decency at all!

01 September 2010

Bristol Palin, Obama, Fox, Japanese Wankers-All Making News

Some gleanings from this morning's news:

Pius pudgette, Bristol Palin, perhaps rankled by her baby-daddy's latest betrayal, has settled our curiosity and removed all drama from her upcoming appearances on one of those ubiquitous TV dance contest clones of American Idol, by announcing that she will not be wearing any sexy or brief outfits. Modesty, she says, will prevail. Bristol, honey--that's a really good choice, you have much to be modest about...so thank you, and until you lose that baby fat, you might want to wear a Burkah!

Yeah, yeah. I know. Snarky and cruel and way, way beneath me.

President Obama spoke on national TV last night and at least five dozen people left reruns of Bones or NCIS to watch his 15-minute soliloquy on our wars of invasion and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.  One of those watching was uber-conservative, William Kristol, who said he liked some of what he heard.  Which prompts me to suggest that, perhaps, President Obama, you might want to stop playing for history books a hundred years from now and cease trying to placate those bastards--do you not understand that what they'd really like to do is to burn crosses on the White House lawn and lynch you and your family?

Fox News has again outstripped all its rivals in viewership proving that you can't go broke overestimating the vacuity and willful ignorance of American TV viewers.  The four-decade process of the "dumbing down" of  America has taken fruit!

And in Japan, there has been created a resort specifically for men with "virtual" girlfriends.  Yes, they will go and pretend they are there with the girl of their dreams...with online images, and through the miracle of technology, they can even have their girlfriend's pictures taken at spots around the resort as though they were actually there.  Now, I may be snarky about certain things, but judgmental I am not.  Whatever gets your lawn mowed and all that!  But, hear me on this--if I ever meet up with one of these guys, I am not going to shake his hand!