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Christina Gagnier: CES–The Answer to Publishing Industry Woes: Mobility

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

CES’ Super Session 7: Big Thinkers and Disruptive Technologies- Today’s Thought Leaders, Tomorrow’s Technologies presented a panel of big thinkers who addressed issues ranging from the impact of the explosion of E-Reader options all the way to technologies that will revolutionize healthcare. In the middle of the E-Reader discussion, an important segue was taken, a discussion of the publishing world and its transition into the digital world.

Decentralized media needs to react to the creation of the decentralized sources upon which users can access it. This was the core message of comments panelist Colin Crawford, Founder and CEO of Media7, made as he discussed how the publishing industry could accomplish its transition from print to new media. Crawford noted that the time is now for content producers, specifically the publishing industry, to seize this unique moment where no one seems to have determined how the mobile market will be tapped into.

When commenting on whether publishers should look to technologists to solve their own problems, Crawford remarked, “Publishers need to solve their own problems.” While many in the publishers industry are hanging their future on technology, there is a need for the industry to recognize that have to create different forms of content for different devices. The desktop reader of the New York Times and the iPhone application user are not one in the same. Content for those on the go needs to be quick to access and effectively communicated. As Colin Crawford puts it, “The right content needs to be with you at the right time.”

Mobile devices have yet to see their full potential realized, whether its publishers trying to share content or government agencies reacting to the needs of their constituents. Mobile penetration worldwide speaks to the need for content to be developed that is user-friendly on these devices. Yet, as more people look towards mobile as a source for information delivery, new challenges are presented: mobile phones demand that content is personal.

The decentralization of news delivery also demand that content providers catch up in a world of search and social networking, two obstacles that seem to stand in the way of online success for publishers. Users today are able to zone in on precisely what information they need, and communities of interest grow increasingly smaller. For the publishing industry to keep pace with technology, the publishers that will be most likely to succeed are those who excel at information delivery in a particular niche.

The continuing problem for the giants of print media is that content is becoming more personal, and everyman can be a content producer. Panelist Dr. Levy Gertzberg, President of the Zoran Corporation, pulled out his Flip Mino HD video camera to illustrate to the audience how personal content creation can be these days. Easy-to-use and fairly inexpensive (around $200 for the MinoHD), Flip illustrates the virtues of mobility: shoot a video, plug the camera into your laptop’s USB drive and upload it instantly. It is mentality that publishers must adopt.

As Colin Crawford reminded the audience, the print model used to work well both in terms of user experience and as a business model. The new model, the mobile model, also has this potential. Between branded applications and microtargeting with mobile ads, the industry has the opportunity to remain viable through this second decade of the 21st century.


John Hickenlooper Receives Call From President Obama

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

DENVER – Mayor John Hickenlooper, who spent most of the day Friday in private meetings and phone conversations, is hoping to take a few more days before deciding whether or not to run for governor this fall.

But top Democrats are being anything but subtle in exerting a little friendly pressure on Hickenlooper to throw his hat in the race. Thursday’s public endorsement from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar “surprised” the mayor, according Charlie Brown, one of four city council members who met with him later in the day.

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Chris Weigant: Friday Talking Points [106] — Election Season Begins

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

Before we begin our weekly talking points, we must sadly offer our condolences to Vice President Joe Biden, whose mother just passed away. No matter what side of the political divide you come from, or what you think of our Vice President, losing your mother is something everyone can sympathize with, so we offer our thoughts to the Biden family in this sad time for them.

Of course, in Washington, the craziness goes on as usual, forcing us once again to pay attention to various bits of lunacy. Topping the list of lunatics this week was a man arrested for jogging naked near the White House. Now, I’ve got to admit, although “streaking” is a fad we all wish would make a comeback, you’ve got to hand it to this guy for pulling such a stunt in January in Washington, rather than waiting until at least the cherry blossoms had peeked out. Jogging around The Ellipse naked in January? Brrr!

The media continues its ongoing lunacy, this week hitting their well-used chorus of: “everything is bad news for Democrats, all the time.” But we’ll get to that a bit later, in the actual talking points.

The final bit of lunacy is the breathlessness which awaits the decision of when to hold the State Of The Union speech, which was earlier rumored to possibly pre-empt the season-opening episode of Lost. This will likely go down in history as the first time the biggest speech the president makes each year had to worry about enraging fans of a television show. This is mostly due to the fact that previous presidents didn’t have to worry about such lunacy, and the fact that television used to actually have “seasons,” and the “season” started in the fall and went through uninterrupted to spring, after which time re-runs would air until the “season” started again. Nowadays, television has mini-seasons which start and end for no particular reason, at random times during the year, resulting in fewer actual new episodes for viewers. Don’t even get me started on that particular lunacy, please.

But we can all breathe a sigh of relief, as the White House is now reassuring everyone that Obama will not pre-empt Lost, but will instead pre-empt the last ten minutes of the Super Bowl.

Heh. Just kidding. Because that really would get some folks annoyed at the president. Hoo boy.

 

Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

The Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week was an easy choice. Senator Chris Dodd made an impressive announcement this week, that he would not be seeking re-election this year.

This is good news, because Dodd’s chances of winning weren’t good, and instead this virtually guarantees Democrats will hold this seat. Dodd, quite plainly, put his party’s interests ahead of his own self-interest. And that is a rare thing indeed in politics, even when you are faced with poll numbers which say you’re going to lose.

Senator Byron Dorgan decided to step down as well, but Democrats don’t have as good a chance in North Dakota of holding on to his seat. Dorgan was faced with the same bad polling news as Dodd, and decided one more run wasn’t worth it. To be fair, we’ll give him a Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week as well.

Because politicians who step down early from a losing race at least give some up-and-comer a shot at winning back the seat. The alternative is to run a campaign everyone knows you are going to lose, and by doing so, give the other party an easy pickup. At least this way, even if Democrats lose, they’ll at least have a better shot at winning than if Dorgan had tried to run again. The betting is that Republicans will pick up North Dakota anyway, I have to admit.

But for putting party ahead of ego, we congratulate Senators Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd for winning Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. The award is Dodd’s ninth, putting him in third place on the all-time rankings, and Dorgan’s third, putting him in a nine-way tie for eighth place.

[Congratulate Senator Chris Dodd on his Senate contact page and Senator Byron Dorgan on his Senate contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

I almost couldn’t think of a Democrat who disappointed me, which is remarkable since we’re really covering a three-week period this week (due to ourselves being pre-empted by our own annual McLaughlin Awards columns, of course).

But then Tim Geithner’s scandal sprang to mind.

Now, Geithner hasn’t been actually convicted of anything, but what leaked out this week was pretty damaging. Geithner, at the New York Federal Reserve, apparently was in the center of some hanky-panky involving AIG and the whole financial collapse last year (before Geithner was named Secretary of the Treasury). Geithner may have told AIG executives to keep quiet about some payments made (after AIG got billions of taxpayer bailout money), so the Securities and Exchange Commission wouldn’t find out about them.

This could be a big enough scandal to force Geithner to resign, although for now it seems he (and the White House) is hunkering down and hoping it will blow over.

Whatever comes of it, though, for telling a bailed-out company to essentially lie to a government regulatory agency, Geithner has more than earned Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Secretary Timothy Geithner has no contact info on the Treasury Department webpage, but you can always let the White House know what you think of his actions.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 106 (1/8/10)

The usual talking point from the media, no matter the subject or circumstance, is how bad things are for Democrats, as I mentioned previously. This week, it reached a crescendo of fantastical proportions, as news headline after news headline screamed: “Democrats retiring — midterms will be Republican blowout!”

Democrats, as usual, appear befuddled by the whole thing. Democrats need to wake up, and start sounding a little more confident about their chances in the upcoming election. Not to the extent of appearing Pollyannaish, but still, they need to realize that doom-and-gloom can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy in the political world.

Democrats face the same conundrum that faces teenage boys everywhere — girls aren’t interested in guys who exude self-doubt, they are drawn instead to those who appear self-confident. The electorate, in this twisted metaphor, are the teenage girls (which actually isn’t that bad a comparison, considering the fickle nature of both).

So instead of individual talking points this week, I offer up instead one big talking point — how to talk about the upcoming elections, and Democrats’ prospects. This may be seen by some as sheer laziness on my part, which is probably a fair criticism, but in my defense, I am in the process of preparing to upgrade my ChrisWeigant.com website this weekend, and have been swamped with lots of details on this front. Next week, I promise, we’ll get back to a regular format here.

So, for Democrats everywhere, especially those about to be interviewed, let’s have a little rah-rah go-team talk for a change, because the Republican spin is solidifying in the media’s myopic eye, and will soon set as hard as concrete. Democrats need to counter this — soon — with some of their own spin. To wit:

 

“I see the media is obsessed over two Democratic senators announcing their retirement. But what goes completely unmentioned in these stories is the fact that six Republican senators have also announced they’re not running.

“Let’s do a little math, shall we? Two Democrats out of 58 is a little over three percent. Six Republicans out of forty is fifteen percent. So, the media’s focus on three percent of Democrats retiring, while completely ignoring the fifteen percent of Republicans retiring strikes me as a little one-sided in its reporting.

“Over in the House, much has been made over Democratic retirements as well, while ignoring the fact that more Republicans are retiring from House seats than Democrats. This is not exactly ‘fair and balanced’ reporting, guys.

“In actual fact, the two retirement announcements by Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd were actually good news for Democrats. Before the retirement announcement, people were betting that both of them would lose their seats to Republicans. Net loss to Democrats, two seats, in other words. After the announcement, the smart money is that Democrats will hold onto the Connecticut seat. Net Democratic loss, one seat. By these announcements, Democrats’ chances in the Senate actually improved — but I must have missed all those news stories which examined this fact.

“History shows that a new president’s party will lose some seats in Congress in the midterm elections. But we Democrats do not see this as any sort of ‘landslide’ election, because we fully expect to start 2011 with a majority in both the House and Senate. We simply do not think that it is in the cards for Republicans to take control of either house of Congress this year.

“We’ve got some mighty good candidates running in some very competitive races, and if we ran the table, we even have an outside chance of picking up a few seats in the Senate. We do face some tough races to hold onto a few of our seats, it is true, but we also have some opportunities in other states of picking up a few seats as well. So I wouldn’t be writing the obituary of Democratic control of Congress quite yet, if I were you.

“Democrats have shown in the past year that we are willing to tackle the enormous challenges our country faces at the moment, and offer solid solutions for how to improve America in the future. Republicans have shown that they know how to say the word ‘no.’ Over and over and over again. It seems to be their entire party platform — stand in the way of progress, and obstruct everything rational adults know needs doing.

“We don’t think voters are ready to go back to the way Republicans ran things when they were in charge. We don’t think voters trust Republicans to be fiscally responsible, because when they were in power they refused to even pretend to pay for anything. Democrats have taken the lead in what is called ‘pay as you go’ legislation — making sure that things are paid for, and not just heaping on more spending.

“The voters are understandably annoyed over all the bailout money which President Bush had to ask Congress for, after the economy collapsed on his watch due to deregulation. But that money is starting to be paid back, and the taxpayers may even eventually turn a profit on the money, as the economy enters full recovery.

“Democrats are proud to run on our record, and will be making this case to voters everywhere this election season. And we are fairly confident that the voters are going to take a good hard look at both parties, and they’re going to see Democrats as the party that gets things done, and Republicans as the party of ‘no.’

“If the voters can even figure out who is a Republican and who is not, that is. It seems there is a gigantic intra-party struggle between Republicans and the insurgent Tea Party folks. The Republican Party is moving to a very radical, hard-right fringe position, and we don’t see that as a recipe for success in getting elected.

“Americans want to see their government work. Most of them aren’t interested in destroying government for some ideologically narrow viewpoint. But that, it seems, is what the Republican Party is offering them this year.

“Which is why I’m actually feeling pretty good about Democrats’ chances in the upcoming election. We think we can energize our base, and convince swing voters that we are the ones offering good ideas for moving the country forward. And, with Republicans offering nothing more than a vision of moving this country backwards, we think our chances are actually pretty good this year — especially since it looks like Republicans will be defending more open seats than Democrats.”

 

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com

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Ramon Nuez: Google is Going into the Electricity Business

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

Google is one of the most successful company’s in US history. It began as a research project at Stanford University back in 1996. Larry Page who was later joined by Sergey Brin postulated that Internet search could be done better. Not only did Larry and Sergey succeed in making search better – they turned a thesis into a $22 billion company. Over its’ fourteen year history Google has entered a variety markets with products like Ad Words, Google News, Google Search Appliance and the Nexus One. Google, now, is getting into the electricity business.

In a press release on November 27, 2007 Google announced a strategic initiative to develop renewable energy. The initiative is called RE<C.

There has been tremendous work already on renewable energy. Technologies have been developed that can mature into industries capable of providing electricity cheaper than coal. Solar thermal technology, for example, provides a very plausible path to providing renewable energy cheaper than coal. We are also very interested in further developing other technologies that have potential to be cost-competitive and green. We are aware of several promising technologies, and believe there are many more out there.

-Larry Page

This past December Google submitted an application asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the authority to sell electricity at “market-based rate authority.” Google makes the argument that it wants to manage the enormous energy requirements of its’ data centers. That is a valid argument since it’ s rumored that Google has at least 12 data centers in the United States. I say “at least 12″ since Google keeps this information secrete.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the agency with jurisdiction over interstate electricity sales, wholesale electric rates, hydroelectric licensing, natural gas pricing and oil pipeline rates. They explain that it is not uncommon for a company the size of Google to make such a request. The FERC currently has granted 1500 companies the authority to sell electricity; at market-based rates. Google has requested that the FERC approve the application by February 23, 2010.

Now you won’t be getting your next electrical bill from Google. That will still come from your local utilities company. The authority Google is requesting is the ability to sell electricity wholesale. My educated guess is that Google will leverage this authority through RE<C and Google.org, to work with varies companies, universities and R&D laboratories – to produce various unsubsidized types of renewable energy.

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) explains that IT is a critical component to the information economy. IT over the past decade has grown at an exponential rate. To support this growth companies must build massive data centers; which consume great quantities of this country’s electricity.

Information technology and telecommunications facilities account for approximately 120 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually – or 3 percent of all U.S. electricity use. Moreover, rapid growth in the U.S. data center industry is projected to require two new large power plants per year just to keep pace with the expected demand growth. Without gains in efficiency, the industry would face increasing costs and greenhouse gas emissions, along with challenges to the reliability of the electricity service.

-United States Department of Energy

From what I understand Larry Page is truly concerned about Google’s carbon footprint. I had a conversation with a Google representative a few months ago and she explained that Google is the 4th largest computer manufacturer in the world. Combine that with its’ 12 data centers and Google stands to produce a massive amount of green house emissions; not to mention the monster electricity bill. It’s no wonder Larry wants to find renewable energy sources.

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Kevin Drum: Obama Needs To Be Willing To Earn The Hate Of Bankers (VIDEO)

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

Barack Obama needs to be wiliing to earn the hate of some bankers in order to pass financial reform. That was the sentiment of Mother Jones journalist Kevin Drum during an appearnce with fellow Mother Jones reporter David Corn on Bill Moyers Journal. Both were there to discuss Wall Street’s stranglehold on politics.

According to Corn, the push for reform is “not a fair fight.” It pits average, middle-class Americans against a well-funded and influential financial services industry that brought the nation’s economy to its knees.

Drum believes that Obama should listen to financial adviser Paul Volcker and former Fed chief Alan Greenspan and move to break up banks that are too big to fail. Both Drum and Corn believe the grassroots network that brought Obama to power could be effectively mobilized to fight for financial reform. But first, Obama has to commit to a new legislative agenda.

WATCH:

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Gina Glantz: Congress: Take the "Hanging Out" Challenge

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

Driving across the country the last three weeks meant rarely hearing punditry. On occasion I scanned the New York Times and Washington Post on line. Small town papers became my news staple. Conversations along the way opened doors into lives outside the Beltway. Home now, I discover that pundit focus, beyond terrorism, is on how many Congressional seats the Democrats will lose. Clearly that also consumes Members of Congress.

Party changing and retirements signal re-election nervousness and job dissatisfaction. Not surprising since Congress seems to be all about who is doing what to whom in Washington and little about what is really happening back home.

It is time for Members to put aside pouring over poll results and resist town hall meetings that attract the most enraged constituents. It is time they sat down and read small town or city neighborhood papers and visit — unannounced – locally owned diners and the like. Members need to see first hand that decisions made in Washington are played out daily in difficult decisions made around kitchen tables. They need to be reminded that national statistics distort and what we all think about, we don’t necessarily know about.

Over the last three weeks, at locally owned establishments, we dined with a giant stuffed moose and a taxidermied buffalo that had appeared in “Dancing with Wolves.” (Sadly, we arrived at four diners with CLOSED signs in towns with as many closed stores as open ones.) We asked folks how they felt about health care reform. Almost everyone had a story to tell about someone they knew not having health care or about being so lucky that they had health care. Almost everyone said they couldn’t figure out what was going on but felt “something had to be done but Washington will probably get it wrong.”

We met a young family that had moved to a small town in fear that a potential economic collapse would happen in big cities first. They searched for a small town where there was good hunting, good schools and good neighbors. The father, a pig farmer, and his wife, a doctor, investigated Illinois but rejected it because “it has the highest rate of malpractice suits and therefore the highest malpractice insurance costs.” After four months in their new home, they decided to take their oldest out of public school because “No Child Left Behind really means every child left behind.” Hearing we were from San Francisco, the farmer said that we were probably ideological opposites. It didn’t matter because, in fact, his family concerns matched mine of years ago except I felt guilty about moving my oldest child out of public school while the farmer felt frustrated and vindicated in his view of government-run anything. If his two year old hadn’t gotten antsy, our engaging, civil conversation could have gone on and on.

Conversations become good anecdotes. The mainstream media often pick up on local stories as anecdotes. Reading about events where they happen transcends anecdotes. A county report indicated that town-by-town unemployment ranged from 9% to 25%. So much for national down ticks. A ninth grade class was featured because it collected 13,000 pencils to be sent to students in Appalachia. When was the last time a bi-partisan group in Congress thought about children in America without pencils? I learned about the Bennett Freeze, which fortunately the Obama administration reversed. Nevertheless, only 3% of Native Americans affected by the Bennett Freeze have electricity. When was the last time a bi-partisan group in Congress became enraged over Americans without electricity?

Over 30 years ago I was a District Administrator for a congressman who came home every weekend and went door to door. I am sure there are still Members of Congress who do some version of that. I suspect there are a lot more who don’t. Today, polls and demonstrations seem to drive Members’ impressions and that does a disservice to those they serve because the result is policy driven by partisanship not people.

I am not suggesting legislation by anecdote, though I prefer it to what we have now — legislation by angry mob and high profile lobbyists. I am suggesting “hanging out”, without fanfare, with constituents where they spend their time. And to do it right means to go without a trailing media. And why not have a district office staffer assigned to “hanging out” every week and reporting back to the Member. Maybe if Members shared stories, they would discover that a conservative family in Kentucky has the same desires and values as a liberal family in NY.

President Obama gets it. He obviously can’t “hang out” so from the start of his Presidency he insisted on reading ten letters a day from around the country. Maybe the White House should create a job for someone who travels around the country without fanfare and has conversations like I did. Someone who reports back to the 7:30 morning meeting to remind those in the middle of chaos that what they decide connects palpably to ordinary Americans. Such a job should be time limited because hanging out in the White House or in the halls of Congress for too long makes one beholden to the institution rather than to the people.

Who knows, maybe “hanging out” would result in civil conversations and legislative deliberations about people’s lives rather than all-consuming ideological screeching.


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Raj Patel: Proud to Be An American

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

“I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.”

Let America Be America Again” — Langston Hughes

I’ve never actually attended a Moonie mass wedding, but I imagine it’s much like the ritual of becoming a US citizen. In the Masonic Hall in San Francisco yesterday, I was one of 1,245 people from 103 countries who faced a stage, put our hands on our hearts, and with one voice betrothed ourselves not one another or the Reverend Moon, but to a flag. There was something faintly cultish about it all.

To become a US citizen is to be invited into a very exclusive cult, of course, one whose armed forces can now call on me to bear arms. And there was no shortage of military themes in the proceedings. In general, when people sign hymns to bombs bursting in air, I tend to run the other way. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still a step up from the rituals of my previous national anthem. In Britain we sing God Save the Queen, a song so interminable and with lyrics so ponderous and toe-curling – “Happy and glorious, Long to reign over us … Thy choicest gifts in store, On her be pleased to pour” – that in the time it takes to go through it once, you can not only have memorized the Sex Pistols version, “God Save the Queen, The fascist regime, … No future, No future for you, No future for me,” but begin fervently to wish it to come true.

No Sex Pistols for us new US citizens, though. The ceremony closed with a video of Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to Be An American,” which was accompanied by lots of breathtaking images of American pastoral beauty, intercut with images of armed men and women. It seems it’s impossible to be a proud American without expensive military hardware. Like other nations, this one doesn’t have an entirely glorious history, founded as it is on that hardware pointed at Native Americans, then slaves, then striking workers, civil rights activists, immigrants and global justice protesters.

Our Master of Citizenship ceremonies, a nice man from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services, put all that behind us. He reassured us that the US was better today for our membership in it. “But,” he said, “we’ve got a lot of problems in this country. Now that you can vote, we’re going to need your help to vote to help to make them better.”

He’s right: there are problems. More than one in six Americans are going hungry, there’s record inequality, stagnant wages for middle and working class Americans, incarceration rates are high, health care levels low. If African American women’s health care levels were counted as a country, they’d be doing worse than Uzbekistan.

The uncomfortable wobble in the middle of our official’s sentence betrays a deeper truth, though. Voting isn’t going to solve problems this big. It rarely has. But what he neglected to mention is that this is a country forged from struggle. The catalyst for the Boston Tea Party, at least as Pulitzer prize-winning historian Arthur Scheslinger tells it, came not because of ‘taxation without representation’ but, rather, a widespread opposition to the increasing monopoly of the East India Company. In other words, US history began with a people’s fight against a corporation so powerful, it was the Wal-Mart of its day. Likewise, emancipation, universal suffrage and civil rights weren’t won through voting, but through direct action for social change, involving protests for equality, democracy, and justice.

It’s this America, where democracy isn’t something you let other people take care of on your behalf but something that you’re empowered to do yourself, which I joined yesterday. I didn’t need a certificate from the government to do it, just as I didn’t need a marriage certificate to love my wife. The citizenship certificate is a sign of commitment – and I want that commitment to be public. Not least because if in being democratic I am arrested, I won’t get deported back to Britain.

In civic groups, churches, schools, unions and cooperatives, it’s this democracy that’s alive and thriving. It’s invariably pitted against the power of large corporations and the state, against the most public embodiments of America.

There’s a painful ambiguity here – I loathe the militarism, corruption and injustice that America represents, but I celebrate the genuine democracy, equality and freedom that can already be found growing in every corner of the country. It’s this tension that Langston Hughes caught exactly in his beautiful poem, “Let America Be America Again.” As the rock guitars blared over the hall of newly minted citizens and the video screens showed images of aircraft carriers and star-spangled banners, I kept this fragment of Hughes’ poem in my heart.

O, yes,

I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!

Raj Patel is the author of “The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy” (Picador).

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Dan Persons: Mighty Movie Podcast: Praise the Lord and Stoke the Conflagration: Kate Davis and David Heilbroner on Waiting for Armageddon

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

I’ll admit I have little patience for people who confuse religious mythology for real-world politics. You want to believe that, when the earthly going gets tough, you’re going to be zapped up to heaven and have a front row seat for the conflagration and the return of your deity? Cool, swell, no skin off my nuts. You want the U.S. to model its domestic and foreign policies on such fantasies, that’s when I politely have to object.

Which is to say that I probably couldn’t have 2010-01-08-babtism_river_jordan_310.jpgsat where the directors of WAITING FOR ARMAGEDDON did while interviewing people who dearly believe in the looming spectre of the End Times — including a couple who have come to their beliefs after, ahem, “scientific” analysis and a guy who leads tours through Israel and gets all giggly at the thought of the razing of the Dome of the Rock — and not wound up stabbing a pencil in my brain. I’m just not that strong.

Fortunately, directors Kate Davis, David Heilbroner, and Franco Saachi are, and their forbearance pays off in a documentary that gives you a good look into what a vocal and influential segment of our population believes is the world’s ultimate destiny, and what the risks may be in trying mold our politics to that worldview. It’s an important film for anyone concerned about the continuing incursion of religion into our public policy, and a balanced warning in particular for those who have noted the religious right’s involvement in Middle East politics without considering its possible costs.

Click on the player below to hear my interview with Kate Davis and David Heilbroner.

More MMP on HuffPost:
Scott Cooper on Crazy Heart
Kevin Heffernan on The Slammin’ Salmon
Aites and Ewell on Until the Light Takes Us

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Proposition 8: Gay Marriage Trial Defendant Wants Out Of Case

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

SAN FRANCISCO — An appeals court cleared the way for a pivotal federal trial to decide whether gays can wed in California to be televised.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday turned down a request by the sponsors of the state’s same-sex marriage ban to keep cameras from the trial, set to begin Monday in a San Francisco federal court.

Lawyers for Proposition 8 backers opposed video recording of the trial, saying they feared witnesses might restrain or alter their testimony if cameras are present. Federal trial courts generally prohibit cameras.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who will preside over the trial without a jury, previously approved using court staff to record the proceedings and upload them on YouTube.

The three-judge panel authorized the recording in a brief, one paragraph order.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Gay marriage foes on Friday sought to stop the video recording of Monday’s scheduled trial on the legality of California’s ban of same-sex nuptials so they could appeal a judge’s decision authorizing cameras in the courtroom.

Also on Friday, an outspoken gay marriage opponent serving as an official litigant on the case asked a judge to remove him from the lawsuit because he feared the trial would generate publicity that could endanger him and his family.

Hak-Shing William Tam was one of five people who formally intervened to defend a federal lawsuit filed against the state that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown have declined to defend. Tam and the other four interveners were also the official proponents of Proposition 8, which passed in November 2008 and was upheld four months later by the California Supreme Court.

“I dedicated the majority of my working hours between January 2008 and November 2008 toward qualifying Proposition 8 for the ballot and campaigning for its enactment,” the San Francisco resident told the judge in May in urging to be named an official party to the lawsuit.

On Friday, Tam told the court that he was harassed and his property vandalized during the campaign, and feared similar retribution if he continued to represent gay marriage foes’ interest in the lawsuit and trial.

“In the past I have received threats on my life, had my property vandalized and am recognized on the streets due to my association with Proposition 8,” Tam said in a court filing. “Now that the subject lawsuit is going to trial, I fear I will get more publicity, be more recognizable and that the risk of harm to me and my family will increase.”

Tam on Friday didn’t mention the judge’s decision to allow cameras to record the trial, but lawyers representing Proposition 8 interests urged Walker to delay implementing his order while they appeal his recording decision to 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The lawyers oppose video recording the trial, which the judge will preside over without a jury, because they fear witnesses may restrain or alter their testimony if cameras are present in the courtroom. Federal trial courts generally prohibit cameras in the courtroom.

But with an eye on the Proposition 8 trial, chief judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit announced last month a pilot program to allow cameras to record civil trials decided by a judge without a jury. Kozinski said “being able to see and hear what transpires in the courtroom will lead to a better public understanding of our judicial processes and enhanced confidence in the rule of law.”

The appeals court has jurisdiction over federal courts in nine western states and no federal trial in the region has ever allowed cameras. Walker did bar live broadcasts, opting instead to post the proceedings on YouTube.com several hours later.

Lawyers representing the gay couples who filed the lawsuit support cameras in the courtroom. So does a group of media organizations, including The Associated Press, that filed court papers Friday urging the 9th Circuit to uphold Walker’s decision to allow cameras.

More on Gay Marriage


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Lisa Earle McLeod: The Secret To Solving Problems: Put Solutions On Pause

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

I’m tired of the fighting.

I’m tired of watching politicians bicker. I’m tired of watching business people go after each others’ throats. And I’m tired of watching people rehash the same conflicts over and over again in their personal lives.

I’ve been on a 10-year quest to unravel the age-old problem of why we don’t get along and to create a new model for solving our problems.

After a decade of working with CEOs, sales people, managers and individuals, I can promise you there’s no difference between an in-law squabble and the sales vs. accounting turf war.

The subject matter might be different, but the dynamics of the argument are exactly the same. Both sides think they’re right. Your truth (as you perceive it) is on one side of the argument; their truth is on the other, and no one is willing to budge.

The result is a tension-filled stalemate that leaves everyone unhappy while the real problems go unsolved.

We’ve long been told that compromise is the answer. But compromise is never sustainable over the long haul. Because whether it’s in a business setting or a personal one, people are attached to their solutions. When you ask them to compromise, it breeds resentment and contempt.

So how do you reconcile seemingly conflicting goals and agendas?

The secret is to take the solutions off the table.

When you’re arguing about solutions, be it policy or personal preferences, you’re already stuck in conflict.

But if you can put the solutions on pause and focus the conversation on drilling down to the core truths behind them, you’ll find a better answer.

For example: The accounting people may be suggesting that every purchase more than $2 must have three levels of approval. Yet the sales team wants to be able to aggressively pursue new business, so they think they shouldn’t have to get approval for anything less than $10,000.

But if you can put the conflicting solutions aside for a minute and focus on the core truth of each side, you can recast the entire conversation.

The truth for the accounting people is probably something along the lines of: We need firm financial controls so we don’t go broke, while the truth on the sales side is: We need the resources and flexibility to pursue new business.

Very few people would argue with either of those. The solutions may be incompatible, but the core truths are not. Solutions are simply one person’s idea of how to solve a problem. Truths tend to be more conceptual.

Your mother-in-law’s holiday solution may be for you and your family to spend 10 days on her sofa bed. But her core truth might be simply that she wants to feel loved and valued by her family.

Getting the truths on the table enables you to elevate the conversation.

In my new book, The Triangle of Truth, I provide seven principles for resolving conflicts large and small.

The first is embrace AND. If you go into an argument convinced that it’s an either/or debate, it will be. But if you embrace that idea that your truth AND my truth can be combined, you’ll come up with more creative options.

Embracing AND means taking solutions off the table and getting comfortable with a little uncertainty.

It only takes one person to recast a conversation. When someone decides to seek the truth of the other side, everything changes.

But someone has to be willing to do it first.

I’m kinda’ thinking that person might be you.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a syndicated columnist, author and keynote speaker. She is the founder and principal of McLeod & More, Inc. a training and consulting firm that specializes in sales, leadership and conflict management, and she lectures internationally. Her latest book is The Triangle of Truth: The Surprisingly Simple Secret To Resolving Conflicts Large And Small More info: www.LisaEarleMcLeod.com


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