Archive for July 18th, 2009

Dr. Tian Dayton: New York: Dinner On the Street

July 18th, 2009 admin No comments

Some friends and I were sinking into that backdrop of twilight sky, flickering lights and people in motion that make eating outside in this city so strangely cozy and entertaining…and we got to talking. There are some benefits to this recession when it comes to returning New York City to some of its livability and charm. Is it my imagination or because people are going out less do they seem to be enjoying it more? Maybe it’s just summer and everyone is more relaxed, traffic is down and the streets are calmer but something about New York City just feels less frantic. There are tons of folks, for example, streaming into the park; friends, lovers and families with little children loaded down with picnic baskets, laying down blankets and settling in for free concerts and movies. Sidewalk restaurants are full of attractive, interesting looking people leaning into animated conversation over bread, wine and plates of pasta.

And an added bonus, some of the worst kind of New York types are less in evidence. The wannabes who walk down the street shouting into their cell phones, trying to look like wheeler dealers, the masters of the universe types who stare …..somber and smug…. through the tinted windows of their black limos; the over dressed, over jeweled and over-ampted shoppers for whom nothing is quite right. You know the types. When there is less money to spend or show off, well people do less spending and showing off. It’s a relief.

This recession has done a lot to remind people of what’s really important, to get us to reflect on how things got so out of control to begin with; it has been humbling and sometimes being humbled brings out the best in people. Humbled people tend to be less preening and competitive and more focused on getting on with it and enjoying the moment. The simple pleasures seem worth more; walks through the park, dinners with friends; noticing and valuing what you already have and where you already are instead of always wanting to have more and be somewhere else.

And culture becomes more important again. Afterall going to the museum is cheap entertainment and a lot more elevating (well this could be argued, I suppose) than shopping. Seeing a play, though not cheap, is still less than some evenings can add up to in New York, it’s good value, more bang for your buck. An experience to be remembered.

When rents fall more people can live here. The City was rapidly on its way to pricing everyone but big money makers or people in rent control out and that’s not healthy. New York needs its art loving, people oriented, intelligent middle class, the ones who are here to use and enjoy the city rather than possess and own it.

Maybe we’re getting our city back so that those who live here, raise their families here and love the little stuff that makes this city this city can can remember why they wanted to live here in the first place. Strolling down Fifth Avenue, meandering along the side streets of downtown, Chinatown, bagel shops, corner delies, book stores and the rare mix of people from all walks of life can be rediscovered. We can take a momentary break from breathlessly getting ahead, stop and, well not smell the roses exactly, but love that feeling of being surrounded by something alive and endlessly interesting, a city that has a pulse of its own that never stops beating. And we can actually spend some time just enjoying each other’s company instead of constantly networking and “getting ahead” to a place that no one can quite define. If less affluence means living more in our bodies and less in our heads and wallets, then maybe we can learn something about ourselves during this period, maybe we can remember the value of doing less and enjoying it more.

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Andy Borowitz: Larry King to Air Archival Footage of Cronkite Talking about Michael Jackson

July 18th, 2009 admin No comments

In a special Larry King Live airing tonight to commemorate the death of veteran newsman Walter Cronkite, CNN will air rare archival footage of Mr. Cronkite talking about Michael Jackson, the network confirmed today.

“It wasn’t easy, but we did some digging and it turns out Walter did mention Michael once or twice,” Mr. King said. “This is going to be a real treat for our viewers.”

In order to fill out the hour-long program, CNN has also created video “mash-ups” to make it appear as though Mr. Cronkite was reporting on key events in Mr. Jackson’s life.

“We’ve got one where Walter is talking about the moonwalk, and then boom, we cut to Motown’s 25th anniversary special,” Mr. King said. “It’s amazing what the kids can do with these video editing gizmos.” More here

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Vivian Norris de Montaigu: Wall Street: A (Sometimes Deadly) Insiders Game

July 18th, 2009 admin No comments

I grew up in a place where many of the young men and women I went to high school with considered a future in the financial industry. Some went on to get MBAs, some are money managers, some bankers, some deal makers. I am very interested by Economics, and the human relationships which allow for profits and growth to take place, yet I never wanted to go to Wall Street. Why not? It appeared to be a rigged deal, mostly a good ole boys club like the one I left back in Texas, and frankly, not a place where Trust and Truth seemed to have much respect. I was looking for something different.

How many times did I hear someone I knew pick up a phone and repeat, ‘”Remember that stock/company/deal I told you about? Buy/sell/trade it now”??? More times than I care to remember. I was privy to “insider information” just because I was nearby, on vacation with, overheard a phone call, dated someone who was doing who knows what…and yes it did seem that, “Everyone was doing it.” But not all of us did.

The one time I heard specific information over 20 years ago, when I was just out of university, I did not act on it. The company split again and again and was sold for a fortune and I would have made a very good profit. Why didn’t I invest in it? I thought it was wrong to do so. I recall thinking, “This is why rich people stay rich.” They had information others did not. This is only one of many stories I heard over the years and never acted on. Some people would think that was stupid, I felt that it would be dirty money. As if bad karma would follow the money. I did not want to buy a house with that kind of money, but with money I had earned. And I did. And the house was a house I could afford without flipping, swapping, betting. I was proud of that house. It was a home.

Then there were those who were invited into the kinds of IPOs Goldman Sachs and CIBC financed in the 90s until 2000/2001. Those in early were guaranteed huge profits. One of the biggest IPOs in biotech was underwritten by CIBC, and the company’s price shot up and died in a few months. They never sold anything on the open market. Many of those profits were transferred overseas. And anything held that long was subject to low tax rates when sold. The executives and inside early investors made a killing. And the investors were also donors to the same medical schools where the research/technology transfer took place. In other words, it was a private club. And it was as politically connected as it could be Thus when it came time for the most expensive part of the biotech process, the human testing, the company had great access — for free, to US soldiers.

The reasons why some banks/biotech companies/bad investments (recall that oil company Bush Jr. somehow made lots of money on even though it was failing?) are protected and others are left to fail reaches up to the highest echelons of power. The only difference is that now they are flaunting it and the regular US citizen feels they can do next to nothing about it. Unless we actually do.

A good start is to investigate in detail and publish the abuses. The Rolling Stone article on Goldman Sachs should just be the beginning. Look overseas to where the profits of many of the biggest US companies are kept off-shore. And keep looking and searching and screaming that we are not going to take it anymore until all the tennis buddy good ole boys are replaced by people we can trust.

So if you have never scratched the financial back of someone who was scratching yours, and you can claim some kind of integrity in your life, please please, think about running for office! Pester your representatives to pass more regulations and to investigate still further. But be careful, because these good ole boys play nasty. And to all of you who studied Liberal Arts instead of “Business” at university, recall the days when you wondered when it would come in handy? Today is your lucky day!

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Martin Lewis: Tweet The Beatles! How Walter Cronkite Sent The Beatles Viral… in 1963!

July 18th, 2009 admin No comments


As we mourn the passing of the remarkable Walter Cronkite — my mind goes back to the first time I met him — and how I learned about his unheralded, but crucial, role in the breakthrough of the Beatles in America.

For the title of this essay is true in its broadest sense. Walter Cronkite set in motion the 1960s equivalent of the Beatles going viral.

A full two months before Americans “met the Beatles” on the Ed Sullivan Show — Americans met them on Cronkite. He made the decision that “tweeted” (via TV in those days) the Fab Four to the American masses — and triggered the series of remarkable events that led to 73 million people tuning in to see them on the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday February 9th 1964.

Yes I know that the popular misconception is that the Beatles achieved their U.S. breakthrough because of the Ed Sullivan Show. But that is actually completely erroneous. Think about it… How could four totally unknown foreign kids command a then record-breaking TV audience of 73 million — which was 40% of the US population? The equivalent of a TV audience today of 123 million.

The answer is that the Beatles weren’t unknown in the U.S. by February 9th 1964. They had already been #1 on the U.S. charts for three weeks when that first Sullivan show aired. And that was almost entirely because they had been “tweeted” across America by Walter Cronkite on his TV news broadcast on a chilly winter night in 1963.

It was a chilly winter night 37 years later that I had the privilege of meeting this legendary broadcaster. Monday November 13, 2000. It was in New York City at the Manhattan Center. The Creative Coalition was honoring Cronkite and my pal Paul Shaffer with awards for their contributions to the arts. I was there lending a hand in the production of a musical tribute to Paul — a performance by one of Paul’s musician heroes — jazz great McCoy Tyner. Once I had ensured that McCoy was happily set-up for his performance — I made my way to the VIP reception where Walter Cronkite was holding court as a procession of well-wishers came by to pay their respects. I waited as folks such as Christopher Reeve, Richard Belzer, Ron Reagan and William Baldwin trooped by and greeted this American icon.

When my turn came to be introduced, I found myself immediately charmed by his twinkling eyes and warm presence. I asked him his recollections about the Beatles and he told me of a telephone conversation he’d had with Ed Sullivan after Sullivan had seen the Beatles on his news broadcast two months before their arrival in the US. I wanted to hear more — but awards show receptions aren’t conducive to long conversations — so I made way for the next admirer — intrigued by what he’d told me.

Three years later I found myself working with friend and fellow Beatles aficionado Steven Van Zandt on a grand salute to the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ first visit to the U.S. — which we dubbed The Fab Forty. I’m a well-known Beatle-nut, but you can never know too much about the Fab Four, so as part of my research for our grand event I voraciously re-read every published account of that 1964 trip. I found myself increasingly fascinated by the incredible set of events that led to the Beatles’ US breakthrough.

One new book titled The Beatles Are Coming did a very effective job of piecing together the story and it inspired me to write an essay at the time that distilled all the known research and recently unearthed facts of this momentous event in pop culture.

It helped bring into focus for me that — alongside Beatles manager Brian Epstein — one of the true heroes of the Beatles’ initial success in America was undoubtedly Walter Cronkite.

I remember conveying this revelation to Walter Cronkite’s dependable longtime right hand — Marlene Adler. Steven and I were about to throw a raucous Beatles 40th anniversary party at New York’s Hard Rock Café. I instinctively knew that our bash would not be a setting where the then 87-year-old broadcaster would be comfortable. Too loud… Too crowded…

So instead I sent him a copy of the DVD that had just been released of all the Beatles performances on the Sullivan show with a note that congratulated him on his essential part in the story. Marlene told me that “Mr. Cronkite” as she unfailingly called him, was indeed incredibly proud of his role in the Beatles’ breakthrough in America. As he had every right to be.

I realize that Walter Cronkite’s role in the Beatles’ breakthrough is still comparatively under-sung. So I have dusted off my essay from five years ago, tweaked it a little — and I present it here as my little tribute to the late — but in Beatles terms incredibly early – Walter Cronkite.


The story of how the Beatles first became successful in America is a fascinating tale – filled with astonishing coincidences. And more than a little help from Walter Cronkite… It’s a story that very few people know.

They went from being virtual unknowns to mega-star status in just six weeks. On Christmas Day 1963 – practically no one in the US had ever heard of them.

By Sunday February 9th 1964, interest in the Beatles was so intense that a record audience of 73 million viewers tuned in to see the group’s debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. (That was a staggering 40% of the US population at the time. The equivalent today of an audience of 123 million.)

How did it happen? Was it the music alone? The novelty of the haircuts? A nation yearning for something uplifting after the tragedy of President John Kennedy’s assassination? A brilliant marketing scheme by their record company?

All of those elements played their part. And there was definitely a marketing campaign prepared by Capitol Records. But the Beatles also owe their initial success to a series of extraordinary events triggered by a decision made by Walter Cronkite.

It was a decision that resulted in a major TV segment about the Beatles airing on his CBS news broadcast on December 10th 1963 – two full months before the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. That TV segment inspired an enthusiastic 15-year-old schoolgirl living in Maryland to do something that caused the record company’s entire carefully-calibrated timetable to be suddenly thrown out of the window and be brought forward by three weeks – much to the benefit of the Beatles.

This narrative explains the entire story in chronological sequence.

April 1st 1963 – October 31st 1963

In this 7-month period the Beatles go from being comparative unknowns in the UK to the most successful entertainers in British history. They become a phenomenon selling millions of records. They also conquer Europe.

But the Holy Grail of American success eludes the Beatles. Though there have occasionally been British records that have climbed the US charts – no UK act has ever achieved sustained success. So US record companies are naturally skeptical about the Beatles. Capitol Records – the US affiliate of the Beatles’ UK label (EMI) – itself rejects the Beatles four times during 1963 – despite their British success. Two small independent American record companies (Vee-Jay and Swan) release Beatles records – but with no success. At this point their manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin are beginning to despair. Then fate takes a hand…

Friday October 31st 1963

A chance encounter changes the Beatles’ fortunes forever. Influential American TV variety show host Ed Sullivan is traveling to London Airport and his arrival is delayed by a riot of youngsters who are there to welcome the Beatles home from a tour of Sweden. Sullivan is intrigued by the fervor for this British rock ‘n’ roll group with the strange haircuts – and considers booking them for his show. Though at this point he probably envisions them making a single appearance as a quaint novelty act. A group of long-haired kids from stuffy old England having the temerity to try and play America’s own music…

Tuesday November 5th 1963

Beatles manager Brian Epstein travels to New York for a previously-scheduled business trip. He arranges to meet Ed Sullivan on Monday November 11th and Tuesday November 12th. Though the group has no American record deal or prospects – Epstein persuades Sullivan to book his group for what will be an unprecedented three consecutive appearances on the show. Even more remarkably – without making a firm commitment on the point – Sullivan agrees to consider Epstein’s passionate insistence that his unknown artists should headline the three shows. The first two shows are set for Sundays February 9th and 16th. (The third show is subsequently scheduled for February 23rd)

Mid-late November 1963

Epstein telephones the President of Capitol Records in Los Angeles and asks why the label keeps rejecting his group. Intrigued about a group whose recordings he has never heard (the rejections have been by a subordinate) the label president – Alan Livingston – decides to appraise the Beatles’ latest record. He listens and then decides to over-rule his staff and sign the group. Skillfully using the promotional opportunity he has created of the three upcoming appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show – Epstein persuades Livingston to commit to a substantial promotional budget to launch the group. He convinces Livingston to spend $40,000 – a gigantic sum in those days for promotion. ($40,000 is the equivalent today of $250,000)

Saturday November 16th 1963

Determined to spark American interest in their upcoming US debut, Beatles manager Brian Epstein persuades Alexander Kendrick – head of the London bureau of CBS News – to shoot a news story for America about the phenomenon of Beatlemania that has engulfed Britain. So on this day – CBS sends a news crew to the quaint British seaside resort of Bournemouth where they film a Beatles concert and thousands of screaming teenage fans. They also grab a few soundbites from the Beatles. It will be the first major TV news story and interview with the Beatles to air in the USA. The film is edited in London and flown to New York to be broadcast.

Friday November 22nd 1963

It is customary then – as now – that TV news divisions amortize their costs by airing filmed news stories in more than one show. CBS News would often air a film segment on its mid-morning CBS Morning News – and then repeat it that night for the different audience that would watch the CBS Evening News. The Beatles film story airs on this day on CBS Morning News – hosted by Mike Wallace. Just two hours later President Kennedy is assassinated and all normal programming is suspended. There is no CBS Evening News that night – and the film can containing the Beatles segment is put away on a shelf…

Wednesday December 4th 1963

Capitol Records issues a barely-noticed press release announcing that it has acquired US rights to a young British music combo called The Beatles. Following conventional wisdom that it is pointless to issue new product in the holiday season – the Beatles’ first Capitol release “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is scheduled for Monday January 13th. The Beatles are set to make the first of their three Ed Sullivan Show appearances just three weeks later – on Sunday February 9th

In those days – even the most successful new record would usually take a minimum of 6-8 weeks to climb the charts. So the most optimistic expectation of Capitol Records (at the time the release date was chosen) was that the first Beatles record MIGHT reach the Top 75 by February 9 – the date of the first scheduled Ed Sullivan appearance. And then those three Ed Sullivan appearances might then help propel the Beatles’ record further up the chart.

There was certainly NO expectation that the Beatles might reach #1 by the time of their arrival in America. That would have been an insanely ludicrous aspiration. Nor that there might be any airport welcome, screaming fans or record-breaking TV audience. None of that would be remotely likely to happen in the short 3 weeks between the scheduled record release date and the date of the first Sullivan appearance. The forthcoming Ed Sullivan Show appearances are perceived as a device that may help make Americans become aware of this brand new group. That it might actually turn out to be a platform for the group to head into the stratosphere (having already reached #1 in America) is such an impossibility that it is just not on anyone’s radar.

Tuesday December 10th 1963

Just as TV executives in 2001 waited for an appropriate passage of time to elapse after 9/11 before resuming normal programming – so TV news executives in 1963 waited for the right time to introduce lighter stories to relieve the deep post-assassination gloom. On December 10th – CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite feels that a nation recovering from the tragedy might be warmed by a light-hearted story. He recalls that there had been a fun film story from England about some long-haired musicians that had been shelved a few weeks earlier because of the tragic events in Dallas. He decides to air the story that night. It is a fateful decision for the Beatles…

Watching Walter Cronkite present the 4-minute story about the Beatles on the CBS Evening News that night is a 15-year-old schoolgirl living in Silver Spring, Maryland. Her name is Marsha Albert. And the chord that the Beatles strikes inside her – is about to accelerate the coming Beatles invasion to warp speed…

Wednesday December 11th 1963

Excited by the music of the Beatles that she experienced on the CBS Evening News – Marsha Albert writes to her local deejay – Carroll James, a disc jockey at Washington’s WWDC radio station. She asks: “why can’t we have music like that here in America?”

Thursday December 12th 1963

DJ Carroll James receives the letter. He too had seen the broadcast on CBS Evening News. He has never heard of the group. And he is oblivious to the fact that an American record company is planning to release a record by this British group in a month’s time. The radio station policy is to try and please its listeners. So he resolves to find a disc by the Beatles. Since they are a success in their British homeland – he phones a contact in the DC offices of the British national airline (then named “BOAC” – now named “BA”.) The friend arranges to have a member of the BOAC flight crew (then named “stewardesses” – now named “flight attendants”) bring a copy of the latest Beatles record to Washington. A stewardess brings a Beatles disc to Washington two days later.

Tuesday December 17th 1963

Having received a copy of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” from England – Carroll James decides that its US premiere should be introduced by the young girl who had requested the record. He contacts Marsha Albert and invites her to the WWDC studios. She introduces the record with the words “Ladies and gentlemen for the first time on the air in the United States – here are the Beatles singing ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand.’” (An audiotape of this historic moment has survived and can be heard here)

The oft-used expression “the phones lit up” does not begin to describe the reaction that WWDC experiences. Listeners phone in repeatedly to request the song. Carroll James and the radio station react by placing their solitary copy of the record in heavy rotation. The frequent playing of the record elicits even more listener response.

Wednesday December 18th 1963

Listeners start bombarding Washington record stores with requests for a record and artist that none of the stores have even heard of. The grassroots reaction has begun…

Thursday December 19th 1963

Executives at Capitol Records HQ in Los Angeles discover that a major Washington radio station is giving very heavy airplay to an imported copy of a record not due for release for another month. Anxious that this breach will damage its carefully timed game-plan – the first reaction of the record company is to request that the station STOPS playing the record! When the station indignantly refuses – the record company even hires an attorney to threaten a “cease and desist” order on the defiant station. Fortunately for the record company – and the Beatles – a wiser decision is made…

Friday December 20th 1963

Capitol Records President Alan Livingston ruminates that since record companies spend most of their time trying to get radio stations to PLAY records – that threatening a lawsuit to try to STOP a station playing a record is foolish. He makes a radical decision. Though the Beatles’ record is not scheduled for release for another 3 weeks – and record companies never release new product in the period between Christmas and New Year – Livingston thinks that the incredible reaction in DC to the disc warrants the most unconventional of approaches. He orders that the record be rush-released on the very earliest date.

Because the manufacturing elements are already at the factories in preparation for the mid-January release – the company is able to effect the release in just one short week. Christmas leave for the staff of Capitol Records is canceled – and the machinery goes into overdrive.

Thursday December 26th 1963

The day after Christmas, radio promotion men from Capitol Records commence delivering the disc to radio stations in-person. The reaction is instantaneous. In New York City for example – the records are delivered at approx. 9am. By midday, three of the most influential radio stations (WMCA, WABC and WINS) are playing the record as incessantly as the Washington station. Major stations in other cities rapidly follow suit.

A crucial benefit of the spur-of-the-moment decision to rush-release the record the day after Christmas is about to manifest itself. During the Christmas vacation kids are out of school and at home – able to listen to the radio all day. That winter, most schools do not recommence till Monday January 6th – so for ten consecutive days that shook the American world – kids hear “I Want To Hold Your Hand” on their radios. (Had the record been issued on January 13th as originally scheduled – kids could not have heard the record at anything like the same frequency.) The impact on America’s kids of exposure to so much intense airplay of the Beatles soon becomes apparent. Record sales take off like wildfire. The speed is beyond anything conjured up by the phrase “going viral”

Friday January 10th 1964

Just two weeks after its first release – sales figures indicate that the Beatles have sold over ONE MILLION records in the US. It is a staggering number by a previously-unknown artist. Especially from another land. Clearly the kids are reacting instinctively to something in the music. The Capitol Records marketing campaign hits full stride now. Millions of stickers bearing the legend “The BEATLES Are Coming!” are distributed. But the campaign does not CREATE Beatlemania. It simply fans the flames of what is already there. It builds on a genuine grassroots reaction to what kids are hearing on their radios…

Thursday January 16th 1964

On this day executives at leading industry trade journal Cash Box compile the sales statistics for the record charts that will appear in the next issue of the paper. The Beatles have leapt from #43 to #1. After being on sale for exactly three weeks – the Beatles are top of the American charts! The issue of Cash Box goes on sale on Saturday January 18th (with a cover date of January 25th) The rival trade publication Billboard lists the Beatles at #3 for the same week – and at #1 the following week. The word is officially out. The Beatles are obviously an unprecedented phenomenon.

Friday January 17th – Thursday February 6th 1964

For the next three weeks – three crucial weeks – Beatlemania explodes in America. Newspapers and magazines write reams of analysis of the phenomenon. Late-night TV hosts make jokes about them. A nation still aching from the gaping, emotional wound of President Kennedy’s assassination finds a diversion. And the media reflects all this. Even though there is no MTV, no cable TV, no Internet – everyone in America knows that The Beatles Are Coming!

Friday February 7th 1964

The day finally arrives. Thousands of screaming kids waving banners descend on the newly-renamed John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to welcome the new conquerors. The day is dubbed B-Day to signify the Beatles Invasion – which will soon become a British Invasion.
Hundreds of cynical New York journalists crowd into a packed conference room at the airport to fire questions at this new teenage phenomenon. The universal attitude at the beginning of the press conference is that the peculiarly hirsute Beatles and the hysterical reaction to them at the airport is just another teen fad – like the Hula-Hoop. Questions are fired at the Beatles expecting them to be the stereotypical pop singers who will grunt laconic, monosyllabic answers. No one expects the exuberant, witty, self-deprecating charm of the Beatles. Gales of laughter greet their good-natured attitude. By the end of the televised press conference the Beatles have won over the toughest room in America – New York’s press corps. After that – the rest of the nation is a breeze…

Sunday February 9th 1964

The Beatles perform six songs live on The Ed Sullivan Show. The show had received 50,000 ticket applications. Only 728 lucky people get tickets. 73 MILLION people watch on TV. A staggering 40% of the population. (Equivalent today to an audience of 123 MILLION.)


If the Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand” had been released as originally scheduled on January 13th – at a time when America’s kids were back at school – it is virtually impossible that the record could have been heard enough to generate the unprecedented momentum that drove the record to a million sales and the top of the charts in just three weeks…

If the Beatles had not been at #1 by the day they arrived in America (let alone #1 for three crucial weeks BEFORE they arrived in America) then there would never have been thousands of screaming teenagers to greet them at Kennedy Airport or outside the Plaza Hotel in NYC. Or hundreds of media scrambling to cover the Beatles at their JFK press conference. Without that hoopla – there is absolutely no chance that a record-breaking 73 million viewers would have tuned in that Sunday night.

The Beatles would still have succeeded in America. Of that there is no doubt. Their exuberant music and giddy optimism was an unstoppable force. But the sheer SPEED and MAGNITUDE of their breakthrough owes much to the unusual set of circumstances outlined above.

The heroes of this story? (apart from the Beatles of course)…

BRIAN EPSTEIN – the manager who would not take no for an answer. And who convinced Ed Sullivan to book his unknown group for three consecutive appearances as headliners. Then persuaded Capitol Records to sign and promote his band. Today he is an almost forgotten hero. You can help remedy that by signing the petition to have Brian Epstein inducted into the ‘Non-Performers Section’ of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

WALTER CRONKITE - the news anchor who wanted to cheer up America after the Kennedy assassination – and chose just the right tonic for the nation.

ED SULLIVAN – the TV host who didn’t ‘get’ the music but who instinctively understood the phenomenon – and gave it the unprecedented platform it deserved.

MARSHA ALBERT – the 15-year-old schoolgirl from Dublin Drive, Silver Spring, Maryland – who cared enough to write a letter to her local deejay…

CARROLL JAMES – the deejay who cared enough about a letter from a listener to arrange that an airline stewardess would bring him a record from London. And then refused to back down when a record company attorney instructed him and his station to stop playing the record.

ALAN LIVINGSTON – the record company president who signed a band already rejected four times by his own company – and who had the instinct to radically change an entire marketing campaign just 5 days before Christmas.

The rest is history…

Acknowledgment: This overview of the Beatles’ American breakthrough draws on information in an excellent book titled “THE BEATLES ARE COMING! The Birth Of Beatlemania In America” by Bruce Spizer. (498 Press)

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Dave Maass: Gov. Bill Richardson Rejects Laura Ling/Euna Lee Public Records Request

July 18th, 2009 admin No comments

More than two weeks ago, I filed a public records request with Gov. Bill Richardson’s office with the purpose of investigating the extent to which Richardson has been involved in negotiations with North Korea regarding journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. The video journalists are imprisoned in North Korea and facing 12 years of hard labor on charges of illegal entry and unspecified “hostile acts.”

The reason for the request: For all the speculation that Richardson might be tapped to negotiate their release, they could just be rumors or political exaggeration. Plus, after the NY Times‘ blackout of coverage of David Rohde’s kidnapping, it’s important for the press to watchdog itself.

In addition, I requested all documents and e-mails related to interviews with the national media on the issue. The reason: We wanted to ascertain to what extent taxpayer resources were used to facilitate media appearances on non-New Mexican issues.

The Governor’s office flatly rejected the entire public records request. Here is the text of the text of the letter (and here’s the pdf).

Dear Mr. Maass:

I write in response to your Inspection of Public Records Request dated June 30, 2009. In that request, you asked for “all emails, letters and other correspondence regarding journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, including requests from national media to comment on the journalists.”

We are unable to provide records to you at this time based on the countervailing public policy exception. The documents you requested to inspect are related to an on-going and very sensitive international matter. Disclosure at this time could possibly jeopardize continued diplomatic efforts to secure the safe release of the two journalists.


Marcie Maestas

Records Custodian

I understand the argument for confidentiality to ensure the journalists’ safety — but will someone explain to me: a) Why is it OK for him to speculate about it publicly on Rachel Maddow if it’s so sensitive? and b) Why is it crucial that his correspondence with the media remain confidential?

Crossposted at

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Claudia Ricci: Why Bad News is Bad for the National Psyche

July 18th, 2009 admin No comments

I once worked for a newspaper editor who defined news with a marvelous little example: it isn’t news if a dog bites a man. But it’s a helluva story when that same man bites the dog.

And so, news is the stuff of the out-of-ordinary. By and large, news focuses on the negative: a fire that kills a hundred elderly residents of a nursing home, a serial killer who murders co-eds on a college campus, a Wall Street schemer who bilks unsuspecting investors out of millions of dollar in life savings.

To those who ask, why is news so negative, we in journalism often reply by saying that the reading/watching public may think they want good news stories, but more often than not those stories bore the socks off of us. And they don’t sell newspapers or build TV ratings.

So what does all this have to do with anything?

If you are reading the papers this morning, you might think things are going very badly for health care reform. The papers are focusing on the negatives: we read that Obama’s timeline — to get legislation out of both houses before the August recess — is looking more and more unlikely. We read that Democrats are losing faith in the legislation, fearing that it threatens economic recovery. Critics in both parties contend that it’s too big, too ambitious and it gives the federal government too much of a role in health care delivery.

Obviously, there is some truth in what they are reporting.

But consider the progress that was made this week: two House committees voted the health care bill out this week with less than a handful of Democratic members dissenting. In the Senate, Democrats voted unanimously in favor of the bill that emerged from Senator Kennedy’s health committee.

The American Medical Association, which has opposed health care reform since FDR’s time, came out in favor of the House bill. The American Nurses Association did the same.

So here we have one of those glass/full-glass/empty situations. Is it time to be optimistic, to celebrate recent progress? Or should we focus on the obstacles still ahead?

The media by its very nature will play the role of skeptic or outright doubter, dismissing (or even ignoring) the positive, and emphasizing the naysayer point of view. Nothing in government ever works right. No politician or President can possibly deliver what he/she says he/she will deliver.

Do we as a society benefit? Does a focus on the negative, and a relentless devotion to the skeptical, help?

More and more research suggests that individuals benefit enormously from positive mental outlooks. In my own experience, battling cancer seven years ago, I defied the doctor’s predictions over and over again when I focused intensively (through meditation, visualization, etc.) on improving my health, rather than giving into my oncologist’s consistently grim expectations. He once insisted that I would need a transfusion the following week.

“So just come in prepared for it,” he said.

That week I took special steps to boost my blood profile.

When I showed up the next week at Sloan Kettering, and had my blood test, the oncologist (a rather cocky SOB) stormed into the waiting room.

“What did you do?” he shouted at me, right there in the waiting room. I was calmly eating a banana. I told him I had had a good friend who is a shamanistic healer “drum” me with her giant four-foot drum.

“Oh, and I also ate a hamburger last night,” I said.

“Well I don’t know what you did, but you don’t need the transfusion,” he sputtered, obviously disappointed in my good outcome (yes, doctors do sometimes have odd points of view on health and disease, seeming to prefer dealing with the latter.)

In another example, the same doctor predicted that I would have at least three or four cases of serious bronchitis a year post-treatment. I am happy to report I have had maybe one cold in that whole seven years!

In matters of personal health, if you believe in your own powers of healing, you are much more likely to be healthy.

So I would suggest that as a nation we would do a lot better to focus on the positive, and to believe heart and soul in our own powers to remake the health care system that is so in need of healing.

The President, in his, takes that “can do” and “can fix” attitude. Despite the naysayers, and the greedy special interest groups who are hellbent on killing health care reform, Obama says we are still in a good position to pass legislation that will reform the health insurance system and make available to all Americans quality, affordable care.

America chose Obama last November precisely because of this hopeful outlook. He defied all the odds and won an election the pundits doubted he could win.

At this moment when health care reform hangs in the balance, we as a nation owe it to ourselves and our children to believe that reform can happen, to see the glass at least half full.

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Barry Michael Cooper: Walter Cronkite, Anchorman: When Holdin’ It Down Lifted U.S. Up

July 18th, 2009 admin No comments

“If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America…”

President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1968, when he learned
that CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite believed that
Vietnam was “unwinnable”.

On Friday, 17 July 2009, we lost another chunk of America. Walter Leland Cronkite crossed the finish line of a most noble marathon. He was 92 years old.

According to journalistic lore, network news producer emeritus Don Hewitt coined the term anchorman on 7 July 1952, to describe the late Walter Cronkite’s coverage of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Hewitt defined Cronkite’s role in that national event, as the anchor leg in the relay race of reporting.

The word anchor is apropos, especially as the term is applied to defining the violent, cultural riptide of the 1960s (and 70s) that crashed onto the shores of our consciousness. The JFK-MLK-RFK assassinations, astronauts doing the unimaginable and walking on the moon, the bloody Kodachrome footage of the Vietnam War, and thugs dressed up as political operatives (who tried to beat a young Dan Rather to the ground) at the1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, were unstable currents churning into the New American Maelstrom. A maelstrom that could have easily drowned our collective psyche in its dark and powerful undertow, had it not been for Walter Cronkite’s calm and soothing sign-off: And that’s the way it was.

Uncle Walter Cronkite was our sturdy anchor in the New American Maelstrom. It felt like he steadied the swaying zeitgeist on the CBS Evening News. As we say in the hood, Unc held it down. Cronkite supported us–as we gathered around those monochromatic (and later, color) television sets, eating our Swanson TV dinners on TV tables–hoisting our anxious spirits with a fulcrum of solid reporting, a firm but warm delivery, and eyes that occasionally exposed the compassionate human behind the unblinking journalist. For the next seventy-two hours, on cable and network tributes; on YouTube searches, and a ton of tiny Twitter urls, there will be the clip of Cronkite removing his black, horn-rimmed glasses — almost losing his composure — as he confirmed the murder of President Kennedy in Dallas.

That teary chink in Walter Cronkite’s stoic armor, unified a racially divided nation — glued to a cathode ray of black and white images — to come together and mourn its savage loss. Cronkite pulled focus, finished the newscast, and came back the next night, and the next 6500-plus nights after that, until his retirement in 1981. And that’s the way it was, was the Cronkitian summation of the world at large, and how it impacted us. It was the benediction in that shinning city on the hill, that was struggling with intermittent moral blackouts (Vietnam-Nixon-Watergate).

Will there be another Walter Cronkite? As much as I would readily elect bright candidates such as Keith Olbermann, Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow, and even MSNBC newcomer Carlos Watson, to fill the vacancy of the most trusted person in America, the answer is a resounding, No. Walter Cronkite cast a long, imposing shadow. On the Rachel Maddow Show, the legendary Dan Rather — who was mentored by Walter Cronkite at CBS — grievously reflecting on the sui generis of Cronkite, said he was able to get through the glass. Walter Cronkite could connect with the viewers at home in a truly personal way,

We are living in a different time: the internet is the virtual hammer that allowed us to break on through to the other side of the glass. It only takes a credit card to pilfer the date of birth, real name, drivers license, and the GPS of where your favorite talking head is, at any given moment. Simply stated, this is the end, my gentle friends. We are The Generation Who Knows Way Too Much, and the more we know about your private life, the less we trust you.

While it may be true that the anchorperson on this side of the millennial divide is interested in helping us stay the course, more often than not, they also feel the need to raise their own profiles. Their Performer Q’s. They can passionately speak to power, as Keith Olbermann does in the eloquent, even brave rants of his Special Comments, sorely needed during the Bush debacle.

However, unlike Cronkite, these nouveau anchor-people wear too much of their heart on their bespoke sleeves. They are a Network of intuitively refined and Ivy-League’d Howard Beales, who are not only mad as hell, and are not only not going to take it anymore, they are going to twitter-it-down to a sexy soundbite. Their is no layer of separation between their public facades and their private selves, and maybe that’s just it. Maybe their public facades are not facades at all. It’s hard to tell in a 21st Century where Me-ism masquerades as We-Ism. Or maybe I’m just getting confused by all of these isms.

Here’s the thing. Could you imagine President Obama conferring the same power and access the unassuming Cronkite had with LBJ, to the narcissistic glitter-babies sitting behind the computerized desktops of the various cable/network news channels today? That might not be a good look. But who knows?

What I do know is this: like the death of Michael Jackson two weeks ago, the passing of Walter Cronkite represents the end of an era. Their departures embody nearly a century of American history that we viewed through the lenses of their lives. The sight of my parents crying in the living room of our shotgun flat on Amsterdam Avenue and 165th Street — in the Little Washington Heights section of New York — as a five-year-old, when Walter Cronkite announced the death of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on 22 November 1963, will live with me forever. I can now add two more dates to that spectral calendar: 25 June 2009, and 17 July 2009.

Walter Cronkite and Michael Jackson are two different men, who introduced us to two different moonwalks–the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon will be this Monday, 20 July 2009–that we’ll always remember. And now, both men have come to the end of their individual journeys. When we lose public figures who become such an enduring part of our private lives, we lose a part of ourselves. We also realize, like Dylan Thomas, that we too, won’t go gently into that good night. But we will submit to it.

And that’s the way it is.

Thank you, Uncle Walter.

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Laurie David: Day 36 of Algalita’s Oceanographic Research Vessel Expedition: A Letter From Captain Charles Moore

July 18th, 2009 admin No comments

On June 10, 2009 Captain Charles Moore set off on Algalita’s Oceanographic Research Vessel for the first leg of a four month expedition from California to past the Northern Hawaiian Islands to test for plastic marine debris.

Captain Moore discovered the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch, known as the the Pacific Gyre, and he is continuing his research to help all of us understand that the rapid rise in global plastic production is leading to a rise in plastic pollution and its devastating effects on our oceans and our lives.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting emails directly from Captain Moore so we can follow his journey and better understand what we are doing to our oceans.

July 17, 2009
Day 36
Noon position:36.05N, 179.60E

Dear Laurie,

The main purpose of our voyage to the International Dateline was to see if the concentration of large debris items believed to accumulate there in winter lasted into summer and whether micro debris was also present there in large quantities.

So far we have not found more ghost nets in the area than elsewhere in the gyre, and the micro-debris, while significant, has not been found in heavier amounts than in the Eastern Garbage Patch.

We are here in summer, and it is believed that the nets have dispersed to who knows where by now. We have found fresher debris from Asia, and more Styrofoam (expanded polystyrene), but the concentrations have been extremely patchy.

I think what this voyage has shown us, more than anything else, is that on a scale of meters to a few kilometers, plastic pollution may vary dramatically. While none of our manta trawls have been plastic free, some taken right after each other have had extreme variability in their plastic content.

Just today, as Joel and Drew were filming for a school program using their small net which takes “education samples,” (unquantified trawls mixed together for showing the plastic pollution problem to young students and politicians), they informed me that they saw a particularly heavy amount of Styrofoam beads coming up, along with dozens of other plastic particles.

We immediately deployed our larger manta trawl and pulled it for half an hour, but when we observed the resulting sample in a large petri dish, we were surprised to see that no Styrofoam and only a few pieces of plastic were visible.

Scientists are beginning to become more sophisticated in their ability to understand ocean currents on the smaller, “meso ” scale, and are looking at what they are calling “sticky” parts of the ocean that can accumulate more plastic debris.

We are seeing this phenomenon on a regular basis as we cull debris out of the ocean by standing on the bow and grabbing it as it floats by with various sized pole nets. We will stand there for 10 or 15 minutes and not see many bits float by, and then there will be a “patch” of many pieces in a short interval, or the concentration may last for some time.

We have also seen “rivers” of calm water and/or plankton that we can navigate and find heavier concentrations of plastic discards than in the surrounding sea water. It must be emphasized, however, that on a larger, or “macro” scale, the entire gyre is a plastic soup or stew of debris.

Every day we pull up a collection of plastic bits and bottles, fishing net parts and buoys, and miscellaneous plastic junk, that now occupies several square meters of deck space. The issue of debris “hot spots” is an important one for NOAA and others who wish to implement “end of pipe” solutions to the marine debris problem.

If they are to be able to make any kind of a dent in the 52 tons a year of ghost nets that impact the new Northwest Hawaiian Islands National Monument, they need to know where to go to find them in high concentration, as doing what we are doing, sailing along a random transect, has not yet produced even one ton for us.

Their basic strategy is to use known oceanographic parameters that can be measured from satellite, and get a general concentration zone they can then send drone aircraft deployed from ships to find specific targets worth picking up because of their large size.

While NOAA still believes this to be a promising strategy, their first trial voyage last March with a drone aircraft did not succeed in locating any nets. Targeting the areas where derelict fishing gear accumulates and going out and trying to pick it up is what is known as an “end of the pipe” solution.

This term is often used by stormwater managers and refers to the difficulty of treating the storm runoff from urban areas at the end of its journey. Stormwater, running off of the urban hardscape does not have the pollutants it collects along the way filtered out by soil, plants or sand as it would in a natural watershed.

A new strategy is to create settling ponds and natural habitats where pollutants can be mitigated before they arrive at the receiving body, which is usually the ocean or a river or lake.

The problem is creating the political will to convert expensive urban real estate into what amounts to bio-filtration media, and some municipalities can only install expensive ozone treatment systems at the end of the pipe to protect swimmers from bacteria.
These systems may not be able to remove excess nutrients or other contaminants that might still affect sensitive habitats that receive the runoff.

With an internaltional community of nations in disarray, it is also very difficult to develop the political will to deal with the worldwide increase in fishing and synthetic polymer fishing gear. After the establishment of 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zones around the coastal nations of the world, the incentive to develop the capability to exploit a nation’s marine resources or sell the right to one that could increased dramatically.

The world’s fishing fleets became markedly overcapitalized, meaning that there were more nets and boats than fish to catch. With increasing pressure to supply world demand for seafood, it was inevitable that the more economical synthetic polymer nets, lines and floats would be lost in increasing quantities. Accidental loss is not covered under MARPOL Annex V, which prohibits the dumping of plastics anywhere in the ocean. Therefore, no reporting of such losses is required.

Faced with the possible extinction of the critically endangered Hawaiian Monk seal, the only tropical seal, our nation has no choice but to try to remove some of the 52 tons of such nets and gear that impact the Northwest Hawaiian Islands National Monument annually. A long term solution will require the invention of photdegradable or biodegradable fishing gear and reporting and take back schemes on an international level.

It is imperative that more strict regulation of international fishing be implemented and many conservation organizations are working toward this goal. It is our hope that changes in the polymer chemistry of the gear will also be on the table during these discussions.

The schooling fish in the deep ocean are practically gone. We have only caught one tuna in over a month of fishing, and it was a baby skipjack weighing less than half a pound. What we catch are Mahi Mahi which do not school and feed mainly on the pelagic flying fish which we are also seeing in fewer numbers than on previous trips.

We have found plastic in some of the Mahi Mahi and also found them consuming lantern fish and rainbow runner, species which are known to eat plastic fragments.

From the Asian side of the International Dateline
Captain Charles Moore, Oceanographic Research Vessel Alguita

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Stephen Herrington: Cronkite — Words Fail

July 18th, 2009 admin No comments

Walter Cronkite 1916-2009. But for him, we would not know ourselves even as well as we do. He took us, gently, to the edge of what we could bear to hear. He bade us look and held our trembling hand as we saw. Adieu…Newsman.

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Dan Dubno: Walter Cronkite: When He Wasn’t ‘The Most Trusted Man in America’

July 18th, 2009 admin No comments

News of Walter Cronkite’s death did not come as a surprise. For more than a month, his close friends and family made it clear the former CBS News anchorman was gravely ill and would not recover. That his passing coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing is less a surprise than a cosmic alignment. In the days ahead, we will celebrate the men who first walked on the moon and the anchor who took us there with them. As we mourn “the most trusted man in America” we also mourn the kind of television news that no longer exists.

2009-07-18-CronkiteMoon.jpg Listening to tribute after tribute by journalists who remember Mr. Cronkite, every reminiscence appears to share the same sentiment: “Walter Cronkite was why I wanted to work in broadcasting.” Even as a boy of seven, I recognized that he had that effect on me. It seemed miraculous for a Brooklyn kid that our babysitter’s mom worked for Mr. Cronkite at CBS News. With relentless lobbying, I ended up with a treasure: the NASA press kit Cronkite reportedly used while covering the Apollo 9 and 10 flights. Just days ago, I paged through this relic: amazed at the audacity of the race to the moon and the memory of Cronkite’s undisguised glee as Neil Armstrong touched the surface of a new world.

Everyone who watched Walter Cronkite somehow felt a personal connection to the newsman: whether they shared his coverage of the moon landing… or his agony announcing the assassination of President Kennedy… or endured with him the daily torment of an endless war in Vietnam or the despicable hostage-taking of diplomats in Iran. He was an outstanding journalist, to be sure. But we connected with him because of his obvious compassion, modesty, and joyous enthusiasm.

Thirteen years after my first attempt to work at CBS, I finally landed a job at the news network I was certain I’d work for. By then, Mr. Cronkite had retired. I feared I would never meet the man who inspired so many of us. I’m glad I was soon proved wrong. Let me share a brief encounter with the newsman everyone knew:

Did I say “everyone?” Well, almost everyone. Covering yet another war, this time Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Mr. Cronkite kindly agreed to help our coverage with an interview. I ran down to the lobby of the CBS News Broadcast Center to escort Mr. Cronkite to a studio. Well, in he came to the same building he hosted his broadcast for 19 years. As I prepared to whisk him off, a security guard at the front desk stopped him. “You need to show me some ID.,” the fellow demanded. “I’m very sorry, Mr. Cronkite, ” I said as I turned to the clueless guard. With quiet clarity and some ferocity, I let the security guard know the man before him was the Walter Cronkite, and we would not be showing him any identification and we would, right now, be on our way. The CBS News security man began to protest but saw a murderous look in my eye and wisely let us pass.

Ever genial and humble, Walter Cronkite laughed. I apologized again as we walked through the hallways and studio he knew so well. “That wasn’t why I was laughing, young man,” Walter said to me. “I was remembering another time. It was the same place … and a similar thing happened. ” Walter smiled modestly. “You see, this is when I was anchoring the broadcast. A few minutes before air, I really needed a cigarette. So I stepped outside for a few moments for a smoke. Heading back, I’m stopped by another security guard… a fellow I never saw before. I left my jacket and wallet in the studio… and we’re going to be on the air in a few minutes. And this security guard just will not let me back into the building.”

Cronkite is laughing now: “So, I tried to explain but the guard wouldn’t budge. The broadcast was just moments away. Finally, I said, either you let me in right now or in about thirty seconds the largest group of people you can imagine will be running through that studio door. And they’ll be looking for me.” The security guard didn’t fully believe him, but finally let Walter Cronkite in. “Indeed, a bunch of people were running around but I got to the chair in time for the broadcast.”

Walter Cronkite defined the role of a television news anchor. Today, the job he perfected has largely lost its relevance. News no longer waits for a single trusted voice… and “the way it is” depends on who you choose to believe. Some claim to be “fair and balanced” and are clearly neither. Cronkite genuinely believed journalists could and must be “objective.” It took a man of great character and outstanding humility to so sublimate his personal views and inherent bias to achieve that rather impossible standard.

At the CBS News Broadcast Center, and throughout the news business, Walter Cronkite largely defined the ethical and journalistic standards that engendered the trust of a nation. Yet the “most trusted man in America” seemed rather pleased he wasn’t recognized at his own front door. It was as if he enjoyed being reminded to remain humble, especially after all of the success and adulation he earned throughout his remarkable career.

Forty years ago, a man walked on the Moon. Words fail to describe the magnificence of this accomplishment. Yet, much as I wished it might one day be my foot that stepped out beyond this Earth, being an astronaut didn’t seem as much fun as doing what Walter Cronkite was doing. A rocket, more than 350-feet tall, lifted the astronauts into space. But it was Walter Cronkite and the team of journalists he inspired that brought the rest of us to the Moon. “Whew, boy…, ” he said, as Armstrong descended the ladder. As the world saw a boot finally touch lunar dust, words briefly failed Walter Cronkite. Then he exclaimed, “Armstrong is on the moon — Neil Armstrong, 38-year-old American, standing on the surface of the moon.” Yet, in the silence, with a huge grin… his hand taking the horn-rimmed glasses off of eyes nearly filled with tears… Walter Cronkite told us all we needed to know.

Thank you, sir.

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