The spring bird migration seems to be over now, the grosbeaks have moved on north and the mosquitoes have finally arrived, along with the dreaded need for air conditioning – a great invention that allows us in the South to live in these climes year around but fuck up the planet at the same time.
The news is not so interesting these days, although the scandals still pile up in Washington. It’s not a bad time to reflect on another Monarchical time – thanks to Showtime.
If you have not been watching the new series on the young Henry VIII, you may want to catch up with the action as young Henry is about to figure out a way to marry the vivacious Anne Boleyn and split from the Catholic Church to form the Church of England, an event that led to the beginning of a great flight of Europeans to what became the United States of America.
The series shows just how corrupt and sick ruling elites can be in a Monarchy. It’s something Americans should beware of considering our current political predicaments. If the Bush’s had their way, we would be headed – or beheaded – in that general direction politically.
One point you should understand right away. The cardinal is the king’s pimp.
That is more or less an accurate depiction of what the mix of religion and state can produce when the leader of a people is said to get his power from a divine source. They called it the “divine right of kings.”
We did away with that shit in the American and French revolutions, and it would be a shame to see something similar return to public favor on Earth.
One of the more important and interesting characters being depicted is Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), also known as Saint Thomas More, an English lawyer, author, and statesman. During his lifetime he earned a reputation as a leading humanist scholar. He was a man of great honesty and character, apparently, which makes him rare in this tale.
More coined the word “utopia,” a name he gave to an ideal, imaginary island nation whose political system he described in an influential book called Utopia published in 1516.
I red this book a long time ago, but lost my Book Club hard bound copy along with all my Aristotle, Plato and Socrates on my move from Gulf Shores back to the Southside of Birmingham in 1992.
Utopianism or “no place” refers to an imaginary island depicted by Sir Thomas More as a perfect social, legal, and political system. Various social and political movements, and a significant body of religious and secular literature, are based upon the idea of a Utopia on earth.
Utopia is largely based on Plato’s Republic. It is a perfect version of Republic where equalism (egalitarianism) and pacifism flourish throughout human society and where poverty and misery are eliminated. It is a place where private property does not exist and religious toleration is practiced. It has few laws, no lawyers and rarely sends its citizens to war.
Utopia is often seen as the forerunner of the Utopian genre of literature, in which different ideas of the “ideal society” or perfect cities are described in varying amounts of detail. It is a typical Renaissance movement, based on the rebirth of classical concepts of perfect societies as set out by Plato and Aristotle, combined with the Roman rhetorical finesse of Cicero. Utopianism continued well into the Enlightenment Age.
Many commentators have pointed out that Karl Marx’s later vision of the ideal communist state strongly resembles More’s Utopia, especially on the issue of individual property, although Utopia is without Marx’s atheism.
Apparently Henry VIII employed More’s exceptional intelligence and grasp of the law and religion to write several treatises in defense of the Catholic faith against European reformers, notably Martin Luther.
But after young King Henry split from the Catholic Church, which would not grant him a divorce, and after he formed the Church of England, More came to believe that the rise of Protestantism represented a grave threat to social and political order in Christian Europe. As with many of Henry’s enemies, he was charged with high treason for denying the validity of the Act of Succession and sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered – the usual punishment for traitors. But the king commuted his sentence to execution by beheading.
We suspect if Bush had his way, he would be allowed to do that to his enemies. Instead, these fuckers just set out to ruin people who criticize them via rumor, innuendo and secret dossiers passed around over the “Internets.” Sometimes the bastards employ a car crash that looks like an accident. Yes, we could cite specific examples and document them.
But it’s late. And afterall, how many scandals does it freaking take to get rid of these corrupt swine?
I’m far more interested in getting past these royal assholes and getting onto more productive pursuits, such as later versions and theories of Utopia. Maybe a scientific approach, something like the one founded by the Global scenario group, an international group of scientists led by Paul Raskin, which uses scenario analysis and backcasting to map out a path to an environmentally sustainable and socially equitable future. Its findings suggest that a global citizens movement is necessary to steer political, economic and corporate entities toward this new sustainability paradigm.
But apparently we’re going to have to re-fight the American and French Revolutions, at least in the political realm, before we can get on with that paradigm shift. We always seem to repeat the mistakes of the past, perhaps because people don’t remember the past in an educated way.
It should be no secret that I would rather be photographing birds from a canoe than covering politics.
Unfortunately, the state of American politics and the press is in such bad shape that I feel I have no choice. It’s that important.
While there are about a zillion places on the planet I would rather be than Highway 280 south of Birmingham, I headed over to the Cahaba Convention Center Friday night to meet former president Bill Clinton.
Now here is where Web coverage gets a little different than the mainstream press. The idea here on a blog journal is to create a more conversational style for readers who are tired of the formalism of balanced journalism.
Photo by Glynn Wilson
Former President Bill Clinton campaigns for Hillary in Birmingham, Alabama.
If I had been covering the event for a newspaper such as the New York Times or the Christian Science Monitor, I would have remained at arms length from the politician and written a more formal news feature on the event, complete with background information and political analysis all wrapped up in the pretty language of a literary feature.
Instead, I concentrated mainly on getting some serviceable photographs in the bad light of the big HealthSouth hall, then passing on the key points of what Clinton said.
As it turned out, I was right down front at the end of Clinton’s address. He walked right toward me to shake some hands. What was I to do?
Perhaps I should have asked a tough question in that rare moment in today’s over-handled PR world when you get to meet an American president up close and personal. But quite frankly, I wasn’t in the mood to be a tough reporter in that moment. I’m sure meeting George W. Bush would be different.
So instead, I scanned my brain quickly for something to say during that brief handshake. Here’s what I came up with, which I think he will remember.
As I grasped that infamous hand and looked Bill Clinton in the eyes, I said, simply: “You were the best president ever – no matter what they say about you.”
He smiled that humble smile of his and said thank you, then turned to state Sen. Roger Bedford, D- Russellville, to shake his hand and continue working the room.
I also had a word with former Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley at the event. She suffered a stroke not long after losing the race for governor last year, but she didn’t want to miss the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner, which drew about 1800 people this year and raised about $350,000 for the Alabama Democrats.
I also got a hug from my old source and friend Nancy Worley, our former secretary of state who is being legally harassed by certain Republican forces in this oh so conservative state.
When I told some of my Democrat friends in Birmingham about the Clinton meeting, they were very interested, since they consider Clinton not only to be the best president ever.
“He is the only president we’ve ever had,” said one Democrat from Clay, Alabama.
I’m sure all those Republican birders out there would scoff at that statement. But that is what the world looks like from over here whether they like it or not.
Thier man Bush has been the worst president in American history bar none. I would bet the whole Yuengling 12-pack that historians will come to that conclusion when all is said and done.
Except for being defeated by the big, corporate insurance companies on creating a national health care system, cowtowing too much to corporate America by supporting the NAFTA free trade agreement, and that little matter of oral sex with a flirtatious intern, it was great to be alive and covering science with Bill Clinton in the White House.
The federal government actually worked for the first time in my lifetime, and the economy was on such a roll I spent most of the 1990s in grad school studying science and communications.
Unfortunately it all unraveled when the U.S. Supreme Court handed Bush the election of 2000. After the attacks of 9/11, I knew I wanted back in the news business covering politics.
I never imagined I would meet Bill Clinton on Highway 280 in Birmingham, since that’s rock solid Republican territory. I think Republicans must like suburban sprawl and driving gas guzzling SUVs in rush hour traffic.
Me? After a fine Sunday breakfast on a beautiful spring day, I’ll be putting the canoe in the water this afternoon, searching for some birds to shoot – with a camera of course.
And unlike all of the Republicans and most of the Democrats on the TV talk shows today talking about the shootings in Virginia, I’ve been in favor of stronger gun control laws for a long time. Give me a camera over a gun any day…
Postscript Note: Notice our lead story on the Locust Fork News page today. The New York Times didn’t have it. The Washington Post didn’t either, and neither did the Birmingham News.
Valentine’s Day is Wednesday, and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has spurned the public’s love in favor of the largest media companies. It’s time we won back his heart, according to FreePress.Net.
The group has created a 40-second Valentine’s Day video for Chairman Martin.
“Watch the video, sign the card to Martin, and tell your friends to do the same,” says Timothy Karr, Campaign Director for FreePress.Net. “Last year, Martin was caught in bed with corporate lobbyists. We need to woo him back to the people he’s really supposed to serve.”
This year is a pivotal year for the chairman. He will be making several decisions that will have a direct impact on the future of television, radio and the Internet.
Before he gets back in bed with corporate lobbyists, Martin needs to hear from the people.
The group urges people to sign the card and ask Chairman Martin to:
1. Stop Big Media from swallowing up even more local outlets.
2. Prevent big phone companies from destroying Net Neutrality.
3. Help foster more diverse voices and points of view.
“Take action today to demand a media system that puts our interests before those of the corporate media lobby. On this Valentine’s Day, let’s make sure the public can’t be ignored.”
How do I? – John Gilchrist of Superspade.blogspot.com/ questions the panel on social networking and political change. Between the subject and the occasional bass from a session in an adjoining room, no one slept after lunch at this session.
MEMPHIS (Jan. 13) – The “Bubbling Up: MySpace, YouTube, Social Networking & Political Change” breakout session at the National Conference for Media Reform promised to cure the after-dinner sleepies by discussing the future of independent media and political activism through an examination of social media.
James Rucker, of ColorOfChange.org, helped the 2006 election coverage through Video the Vote, which recruited voting activists who had a camera or cell phone to document the disenfranchising of any voter.
“What you have with the Internet is a publishing platform that anyone can participate in,” he said. “As we heard problems developing, we’d deploy a volunteer who’d signed up online. They’d document the problem and upload it to our site.”
The site acted as a front end into the YouTube database, which Rucker said is hard to navigate due to its lack of consumable packaging. Video the Vote took the disparate videos and produced video essays, some of which were picked up by corporate media. Rucker plans to use the same idea for CopWatch, which will document police brutality.
“Everyone knows a story of police brutality,” he said. “It’s the kind of thing that’s very hard to get a feel for what’s happened when it’s in print. With cell phones, people capture things of cops being rough.”
Rucker said he believes in the power of citizen media and thinks it will change corporate media from the kind of force that it’s been. While at the moment many of the smaller players are not necessarily trusted nor do they carry the brand name, Rucker looks to bloggers as an example that the market place has been forced to acknowledge.
“I actually think corporate media will have a hard time competing with people producing citizen journalism,” he said.
Memphis (Jan. 12) – During Friday’s “Building and Sustaining Independent Media” breakout session, the presenters overviewed their individual independent outlets and suggested how the independent media landscape could be strengthened, yet they could only suggest diversifying when trying to answer the most-asked question of the afternoon: how can independent media make money?
Kim Spencer, executive director of Link TV, said the key to profitability rests in a variety of funding sources. While that may seem obvious, Bonnie Boswell of The Real News took it a step further, noting that the proposed international independent news network would rely on individuals as the primary source of funding, in essence creating a publicly driven media source.
“We intend to have no government financing or advertising,” Boswell said. “We’ve raised $5 million and intend to raise $15 million more. If we can get 250,000 people to give $10 a month then you can be independent.”
Moderator Tracy Van Slyke, publisher of the 30-year-old independent national award-winning news magazine In These Times, noted while independent media may be poor in capital, it boasts rich content. In hopes of increasing the reach of that content, many of the organizations joined Mediaconsortium.org – a network of 35 progressive media organizations filling a void created by the loss of organizations like the Independent Press Association, which folded over a week ago.
“Many funders don’t understand the need for funding of the progressive media landscape,” Vans Slyke said.
Continuing the Fight – Rev. Jesse Jackson finishes his speech at the National Conference for Media Reform. Jackson urged participants to continue the fight to keep independent media alive and well.
MEMPHIS (Jan. 12) – Rev. Jesse Jackson told a gathered crowd of approximately 2,500 and an additional 2,000 watching the event through streaming media on freepress.net that President George W. Bush is a war addict who needs some type of methadone.
“The president is in a hole looking for a shelter rather than a rope,” Jackson said.
While he occasionally referred back to the president, Jackson used the forum to speak about the upcoming national Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and claimed that romanticizing King’s legacy takes away from the struggle of today.
In a rather poignant moment, Jackson spoke of King’s last hours before coming to Memphis, noting King spent his birthday at home with family and in the basement of his church trying to decide how to end poverty and to end the war. Jackson said King almost gave up the struggle the morning before coming to Memphis due to the accomplishments of the Civil Rights movement, comparing King’s indecision to that of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane prior to his crucifixion.
Jackson then spoke of the problems of the affirmative action movement, noting the main beneficiaries of affirmative action has been white women through Title IX legislation allowing equal competition in sports. But he claimed many young white female beneficiaries are against affirmative action because they don’t hear the truth of affirmative action in mass media.
“I’m concerned that the media has the capacity to make America better,” Jackson said. “We must fight to open the airwaves for all people.”
Slate-gray skies and a steady mist took me from Little Rock to the City of the Blues this morning. It’s almost winter in the Delta; the weather-niks even forecast cold temperatures for next week. As I drove I thought that regardless of your views on global warming, no one can deny the weather cycles strayed from normal over the past decade.
The Black Keys’ Magic Potion provided a soundtrack as I looked across the landscapes that urbanites deride as monotonous but farmers appreciate as fields of gold. Yet when it takes Coca Cola’s plight of perhaps losing its winter icon, the polar bear, to make the current administration use the term “global warming,” I wonder if we can make “dilemonade” out of the dilemma confronting mankind with the current leadership lacking in powerful places. We passed the point of preventing the problem; pray we can mitigate the effects.
Sometimes as I pass the Super Uninformed Victims clogging the road and our air, I wish I owned a bumper sticker asking, “Suckin’ Gas?” But what’s a fella to do when our government provides a $100,000 tax credit to buy a gas hog versus a $4,000 credit to buy a hybrid that gets better than 60 mpg at 55 mph?
What does this have to do with media reform, you ask?
First, here’s some of what he had to say, followed by my response.
I’m a fan of some conspiracy theories. And so really, what could be a more compelling conspiracy theory than the plot to destroy the American newspaper, hatched – in our imagination anyway – by a secret cabal of bloggers and Web gurus meeting in a diner off Calle Ocho in Miami, then launching their assault on circulation from a Grassy Knoll somewhere in cyberspace?
Except this is one conspiracy that can be easily debunked. The American newspaper is being assassinated by “a lone nut.” And we’re going to tell you the name of that lone nut:
Craig Newmark of Craigslist . . . a man whose altruistic vision of running a business to NOT maximize profits is now threatening the livelyhood of thousands of working men and women across this country, your neighbors who work at and publish your local newspaper, jobs that were once supported by the classified ads that have migrated to the most free . . . Craigslist (sic: dot org).
Last week, Newmark’s co-conspirator (OK, he’s not a totally “lone” nut) – his CEO Jim Buckmaster – told stunned Wall Street analysts how they’re happy to forego profits to save you a couple of bucks on a classified ad, and put some of my best friends on the unemployment line in the process. They even leave on the table money in ways that wouldn’t come directly from their customers:
If you won’t charge customers for ads, and apparently you won’t, then at least start accepting those text ads, and funnel those millions of dollars into the newly formed Craig’s Foundation. And what will be the main benefactor of this new foundation? A scholarship fund, to pay for the college education of the dozens of displaced journalists across America losing their jobs everyday. . . . And if there’s any cash left, how about building a retirement home for any newspaper folks who might somehow see a diminished pension down the road?
Since no one else will ever set the record straight on this, apparently, perhaps because they have not studied the issue enough to be in command of the facts, let me have a go.
It’s not that much of a mystery to me why newspaper reporters do not understand what’s going on here. Most of them got into newspapering in the first place because they could not do math. And from their early days in the business, they shunned any knowledge of the business side of newspapering, believing that to know the facts about business would jeopardize their objectivity.
But anyone who has ever worked as an academic, teaching journalism, should be familiar with the literature on how newspapers make money to pay reporters. And its not from classified ads or the price of a subscription.
Admittedly, a lot of academics don’t have those facts at their disposal for a variety of reasons. I once got into a heated argument with a faculty member at a reputable regional university who insisted out of ignorance that the Washington Post was a national newspaper, for example. But anyone who knows the facts here, including the publisher and the circulation manager at the Post, knows this to be true: The Post made a conscious decision not to invest in regional printing plants and daily distribution across the country like USA Today, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. It is a metropolitan newspaper with distribution in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
They now have an opportunity with the Web Press to reach out to a national and international audience, however, and so far they seem to be capitalizing on it – without charging for access to their Web edition.
So let’s be clear. Craigslist.Org is not putting any newspaper reporters out of work because the revenue from classified advertising never, ever went for paying the salaries of reporters in the first place. Nor did the price of a mail subscription or the price of the paper in the newsstand or box on the corner.
The price of the paper itself has always been earmarked primarily for the cost of distributing the newspaper. If anything was left over from that, it went for the cost of printing the newspaper.
Fact: It costs nothing to print or distribute a newspaper on a Web Press. It does cost a little to put it online, but nothing compared to the millions of dollars of paying for and maintaining an offset press, not to mention the rising cost of paper and ink.
Classified ads in newspapers has been a source of revenue for paying staff at newspapers, but mostly for the production and circulation staff. News staffs and most of the employees of newspapers have always been paid from general advertising revenue.
So perhaps Mr. Bunch should redirect his ire at Craigslist toward building a retirement home for newspaper delivery boys and pressmen.
But guess what? There’s an antidote to Craigslist and the newspapers have it in their power to overcome the threat from the competition. If they would just stop bashing the online revolution and join it, they are in a powerful position to take advantage of it. If newspapers would just invest in original journalism and put it online for free, thereby putting themselves in a position of generating a massive amount of traffic AND online advertising revenue, they could survive.
They could even start their own free online classifieds to compete with Craigslit. They could sell Google text ads and pocket all the money and brag at the end of the year to their stockholders.
But apparently, newspaper managers (and columnists) are so out of touch with the reality available right in front of them that they will go on bashing the Web until they are out of business.
When that day comes, us former newspaper reporters who understand the Web Press will be right here to take over where they left off – if there is a First Amendment left after Bush’s appointments to the federal bench get done with sending it to the trash heap of history.
Good writing is good writing … it sets you free, if you are an artist.
by Glynn Wilson
TUSCALOOSA, Ala., Nov. 11 – It is an almost surreal feeling to be standing in the cold fog within earshot of Bryant-Denny stadium during an Alabama football game and there’s not a person in sight. Not a soul yelling “Roll Tide.”
At this moment Alabama is hanging in there with LSU and only trailing by a touchdown in the first half. But there is not a sound around the campus in the dark.
Except for the voices coming from the TV.
Half of the inhabitants from here are on the road too, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Sipping on just enough Jamaican rum to keep the bones warm, I am watching the game and at the same time trying to think some more about what I might say to journalism students at the university about the state of writing for the Web. Read more: Connecting The Dots: Writing, Art and Freedom…
Turning to the polls online to look for hope or impending disaster on election day 2006, it is surprising to find the online pollsters more optimistic for the Democratic Party than even the national corporate broadcast media at this point.
It’s a balanced picture on TV, of course, with the Republicans coming back in the end.
But the best pollsters seem to think it’s over and the Democrats will take back both houses of Congress.
We are not so sure, due to the “too close to call” nature of many races – and our fear that the Republicans will likely do their best to disengranchise voters where they can and “steal” any close election.
Let’s hope the pollsters are right.
According to the Cook Political Report, the Democratic Party should pick up 20 to 35 seats in the House, four to six seats in the Senate and a six to eight more governor’s races than the GOP.
“All Monday there was considerable talk that the national picture had suddenly changed and that there was a significant tightening in the election,” Cook says, but it’s not true.
“This was based in part on two national polls that showed the generic congressional ballot test having tightened to four (Pew) and six (ABC/Wash Post) points,” he says.
But seven national polls have been conducted since Wednesday, November 1 and give Democrats an average lead of 11.6 percentage points, “larger than any party has had going into an Election Day in memory.”
Even if you knock five points off of it for the margin of error, it’s 6.6 percentage points, he says, “bigger than the advantage that Republicans had going into 1994.”
“Furthermore, there is no evidence of a trend in the generic ballot test,” he argues.
In chronological order of interviewing (using the midpoint of field dates), the margins were: 15 points (Time 11/1-3), 6 points (ABC/Wash Post), 4 points (Pew), 7 points (Gallup), 16 points (Newsweek), 20 points (CNN) and 13 points (Fox).
In individual races, some Republican pollsters see some movement, voters “coming home,” in their direction, and/or some increase in intensity among GOP voters,” he says. But “all seem to think that it was too little, too late to significantly change the outcome.”
It might be enough to save a few candidates, but no one thinks it is a major change in the dynamics of races.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball is predicting about the same result, 4, 5 or 6 seats going to the Democrats, “resting party control of the Senate squarely on the edge of the butter knife,” according to Larry J. Sabato and David Wasserman of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
“We think the Democrats may replicate their feat from 1986 (the sixth year election of Ronald Reagan’s Presidency) and capture just enough seats to take over,” they said. When they add together all their predictions, Democrats pick up six seats, “sufficient to wrest control from the GOP.”
So, it looks good tonight, but don’t count on it. Go to the polls yourself and make it happen. Your future freedom depends on it.
If the power does change hands, it means above all, that Rep. John Conyers will become chair of the House Judiciary Committee. No one is campaigning on the issue, but he will no doubt launch a major investigation into President George W. Bush’s war crimes and bring articles of impeachment against the dicktater in chief.
He’s already drawn up the articles and held hearings in the Capitol basement, since the Republicans would not use their Constitutional oversight responsibilities to do the right thing for their country. They won’t even give him a room or put his hearings on the agenda.
It’s at least worth an investigation, some hearings, a national discussion and a damn vote. Otherwise, we are a democratic republic no more and the world will never believe us or look up to us again…