Friday, March 13, 2009

Crossing the Delaware with Republicans

Newspaper transition: Preserve local newsgathering

Newspapers will figure out the economics of online news though not all will survive the transition, writes Ryan Blethen, Seattle Times associate publisher. "My generation of Blethens, the fifth to own The Times, will preside over a much different organization than any of the previous four. Our goal is not so much to preserve the printed newspaper but to preserve a local newsgathering operation."

What is a newspaper anymore? Many different things, judging from the e-mails I receive from readers and the feedback I get from friends and the community.

In my last column, I wrote that I am using this space during the next couple of months to examine the many ideas and business models that have been suggested to support professional journalism and the newspaper of the future. Before I can go further with this topic, I need to reconcile what I believe a newspaper is and what appears to be a large chunk of the community's and readers' definition and/or perception of newspapers.

A number of comments generated by the column claimed that newspapers were dead but might live online. Or that the Internet will kill newspapers and that society would be all the better for the digital slaying.

The latter notion was forcefully raised by a commentator called CougInLacey, from you guessed it, Lacey. "I think the Internet will kill off the newspapers. As in no news via PAPER. It's possible that newspapers will morph into online only but like you I don't see the economics in it."

I partially disagree. The Internet will not kill off newspapers. I can say this because of my definition of a newspaper. To me the word "newspaper" is a catchall for whatever way newspaper created content is delivered. This includes a newspaper's Web site. The content might be digital but it is still newspaper-created content.

When newspapers come up in conversation — which, with me, is often — I almost always ask people how they get their news. A decade ago, this conversation hinged on whether they were Seattle Times or Seattle Post-Intelligencer readers.

Today, the answer is much more convoluted. I usually get the generic "from the Internet" answer. This response prompts me to drill deeper. What I find is that "the Internet" is really a daily or multiple daily newspapers and a search engine.

Where I disagree with CougInLacey is that newspapers will figure out the economics of online news. An online news site does not rule out the continuation of print. The days of printing seven days a week for a mass audience might have to be sacrificed for old-time newspapers to make a successful transition into the digital age. Not all newspapers will survive the transition. But many will, and contrary to what a lot of commentators say, that is a good thing.

Another reader, cathy2010 from Bellevue, got to me with her comment: "Is the point to save the printed page or is it to save local news organizations?"

Good question. My mission is to save the local news organization, which to me is The Seattle Times. As much as I love news printed on paper, I have accepted the fact that the future is going to be different.

My generation of Blethens, the fifth to own The Times, will preside over a much different organization than any of the previous four. Our goal is not so much to preserve the printed newspaper but to preserve a local newsgathering operation.

I asked at the beginning of this column what a newspaper is, anymore. Let me answer that another way. The Times will be a company rooted in journalism as long as my cousins, brother and I are involved.

The question should be: How are we going to change to sustain the journalism that serves the community?

Ryan Blethen's e-mail address is

U.S. Economy

The CIA responds to Seymour Hersh

By Eric Black

"Utter nonsense," is the quote from CIA spokester George Little.

In case you're out of context, I wrote yesterday about comments famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh made Tuesday night at the U of M, which included a description of a story he is working on that he said would show that "the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven't been called on it yet. That does happen."

CIA spokester Little emailed me:

"I saw your story on Seymour Hersh's recent allegations regarding CIA activities since 9/11.  If you wish, you can attribute the quoted portion that follows to me, in name, as a CIA spokesman:

'This is utter nonsense.'"

I spoke to Little to clarify whether he was aware of the basis for Hersh's statement (which I am not, only that it's based on his reporting) or whether he was categorically stating that nothing the CIA has done post-9/11 could be reasonably characterized as domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. He said it was a categorical denial. He doesn't know what Hersh claims, but any claim that the CIA has engaged in domestic spying is "complete and utter nonsense," saith Little on behalf of the CIA.

Secret State Police Report: Ron Paul, Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin, Libertarians are Terrorists

by Kurt Nimmo

Alex Jones has received a secret report distributed by the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC) entitled "The Modern Militia Movement" and dated February 20, 2009. A footer on the document indicates it is "unclassified" but "law enforcement sensitive," in other words not for public consumption. A copy of the report was sent to Jones by an anonymous Missouri police officer.

featured-stories - Secret State Police Report: Ron Paul, Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin, Libertarians are Terrorists featured-stories - Secret State Police Report: Ron Paul, Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin, Libertarians are Terrorists
featured-stories - Secret State Police Report: Ron Paul, Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin, Libertarians are Terrorists featured-stories - Secret State Police Report: Ron Paul, Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin, Libertarians are Terrorists
featured-stories - Secret State Police Report: Ron Paul, Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin, Libertarians are Terrorists featured-stories - Secret State Police Report: Ron Paul, Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin, Libertarians are Terrorists
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The MIAC report specifically describes supporters of presidential candidates Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, and Bob Barr as "militia" influenced terrorists and instructs the Missouri police to be on the lookout for supporters displaying bumper stickers and other paraphernalia associated with the Constitutional, Campaign for Liberty, and Libertarian parties.

"Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC) provides a public safety partnership consisting of local, state and federal agencies, as well as the public sector and private entities that will collect, evaluate, analyze, and disseminate information and intelligence to the agencies tasked with Homeland Security responsibilities in a timely, effective, and secure manner," explains the MIAC website. "MIAC is the mechanism to collect incident reports of suspicious activities to be evaluated and analyzed in an effort to identify potential trends or patterns of terrorist or criminal operations within the state of Missouri. MIAC will also function as a vehicle for two-way communication between federal, state and local law enforcement community within our region."

MIAC is part of the federal "fusion" effort now underway around the country. "As of February 2009, there were 58 fusion centers around the country. The Department has deployed 31 officers as of December 2008 and plans to have 70 professionals deployed by the end of 2009. The Department has provided more than $254 million from FY 2004-2007 to state and local governments to support the centers," explains the Department of Homeland Security on its website. Missouri is mentioned as a participant in this federal "intelligence" effort.

Last month, the ACLU issued a news release highlighting the activity of a fusion center in Texas as the "latest example of inappropriate police intelligence operations targeting political, religious and social activists for investigation," in particular "Muslim civil rights organizations and anti-war protest groups."

The MIAC report does not concentrate on Muslim terrorists, but rather on the so-called "militia movement" and conflates it with supporters of Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr, the so-called patriot movement and other political activist organizations opposed to the North American Union and the New World Order. The MIAC document is a classic guilt by association effort designed to demonize legitimate political activity that stands in opposition to the New World Order and its newly enshrined front man, Barack Obama.


Quit your bitching

Half of Americans Are Two Paychecks Away from Hardship

The Home Front by Alex Markels

The eroding labor market is expected to trigger additional pain for banks as job losses undercut consumers' ability to make their mortgage payments.

With unemployment on the march, Julia Rodgers, a mortgage advisor with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, told me last week that homeowners should have at least three months of mortgage payments saved up to protect themselves from a job loss. But a recent study by MetLife indicates that consumers don't have nearly enough of a financial cushion to keep them afloat should a job loss occur.

From the report:

Many Employees Are Just Two Paychecks Away from Serious Financial Hardship

With the number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits in early February 2009 at its highest rate since 1982 (Source: U.S. Department of Labor), few have cash reserves on hand to cover monthly expenses in the event of a job loss. Equally few have an adequate safety net to cover lost income or household emergencies. In this environment, work — and the paycheck and benefits associated with it — is propping up the American dream.

The Fair Use Massacre Continues: Now Warner’s Going After the Babies

Commentary by Corynne McSherry

I Love My Lips toddler Juke Box Hero toddler

First they came for the teenagers. Could toddlers be far behind? Nope. Thanks to the good folks at YouTomb, we've learned that Warner Music's automated takedown net has now caught two videos of little kids being little kids.

Of course we can't show you the videos since they're, well, censored, but the YouTomb snapshots tell most of the story. One showed a 4 year old lip-syncing to the old Foreigner hit, "Juke Box Hero." The other apparently showed a baby smacking its lips to the tune of "I Love My Lips"—a song originally sung by a cucumber in an episode of "Veggie Tales." Both videos are obvious fair uses (these are transformative, noncommercial videos that are not substitutes for the original songs, and there is no plausible market for "licensing" parents before they video their own children singing) and perfectly legal—just like the video of a baby dancing to a Prince song that Universal Music Group took down in 2007.

These are just a few of the thousands of videos Warner has instructed YouTube to block in the past few months. According to statistics kept by YouTomb, there were twice as many videos removed from YouTube in January 2009 as in the entire previous year combined. The numbers are all more appalling because, thanks to Warner's reliance on YouTube's automated, censorship-friendly Content I.D. tool, there is no reason to think that Warner even bothered to watch these videos to decide whether it actually objects them before blocking them.

We've said it before, and we'll keep saying it until the folks at Warner come to their senses: it's time to stop the censorship. The Content ID system should be set to flag possible infringing works and then Warner should have a human review those works before they are taken down.

And if Warner won't reverse course altogether, it should at least promise that no one will be sued for simply disputing a Content I.D. removal. Warner loses nothing by this: even after a user files Content I.D. dispute, Warner still has the option of using a DMCA takedown notice to target videos to which it really objects. By publicly committing to using the DMCA process, Warner will reassure fair users that they can raise the red flag without fear of finding themselves in the middle of an expensive and unexpected lawsuit.

Now it's official: the entire beauty industry is built on the peddling of pernicious nonsense

It sells products that don't really work to people who don't really need them at prices they can't really afford

by Sam Leith

Sam LeithThey lied to us! Who knew? I mean, one moment, there you are, slumped on the sofa, drooling away in happy open-mouthed assent as the lady on the telly tells you that her face cream will make you look like Scarlett Johansson. The next, you discover that it's not true. All their face cream will do is make your face greasier and your wallet lighter.

This - in outline - is the finding that has been made by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) against an advert in which "beauty journalist" Eve Cameron tells us that "if you're not ready for cosmetic injections" help is at hand in the form of Olay Regenerist.

"This study, revealed at the World Congress of Dermatology, showed that pentapeptides are effective in reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles." Now, at last, it will allow you to "love the skin you're in".

The ASA pointed out unhelpfully that: a) this goo has no comparable effect to injections, and b) the ad misled customers by implying there was scientific evidence that this goo works. There was no proof that, if this goo's pentapeptides do do anything at all, it is "visually significant to the consumer". A home run, then, for Ms Cameron's investigative journalism.

The thing about anti-ageing cream - a thing so blatantly obvious that it seems a miracle the ASA hasn't coughed quietly and pointed it out more often - is that it doesn't sodding well exist. There is no such thing. Nowhere in the universe.

You cannot rub a mixture of water (or "aqua" as they, with embolism-inducing pretentiousness, call it on the pots) and vegetable oil into your skin, however many scientific-sounding branded ingredients they've stirred into it, and have any effect whatsoever on the process of ageing that is taking place in the cells throughout your body.

The adverts might as well say "defy the second law of thermodynamics with face cream" or "thanks to the special scientifically developed molecules in our moisturiser, the earth's gravitational field need not affect you". This is an entire industry built on pernicious horse manure, and the only wrinkles it's likely to reduce are the ones on your cerebellum.

Morning at the stem cell research center

Obama Administration Declares Proposed IP Treaty a 'National Security' Secret

By David Kravets

Picture_9 President Barack Obama came into office in January promising a new era of openness.

But now, like Bush before him, Obama is playing the national security card to hide details of the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement being negotiated across the globe.

The  White House this week declared (.pdf) the text of the proposed treaty a "properly classified" national security secret, in rejecting a Freedom of Information Act request by Knowledge Ecology International.

"Please be advised the documents you seek are being withheld in full," wrote  Carmen Suro-Bredie, chief FOIA officer in the White House's Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

The national security claim is stunning, given that the treaty negotiations have included the 27 member states of the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand, all of whom presumably have access to the "classified" information.

In early January, the Bush administration made the same claim in rejecting (.pdf) a similar FOIA request by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

If ratified, leaked documents posted on WikiLeaks and other comments suggest the proposed trade accord would criminalize peer-to-peer file sharing, subject iPods to border searches and allow internet service providers to monitor their customers' communications.

Off-Year Election Comics

The Chicken Little Sky Is Falling Bizarre Corporate Panic over Workers’ Rights Award


by Seth Michaels

The wing nuts speaking for Corporate America are getting—well, wing nuttier. Their anti-worker, anti-union lies and distortions about the Employee Free Choice Act have reached just plain bizarre levels.

Now it's your turn to weigh in: Who deserves the Chicken Little Sky Is Falling Bizarre Corporate Panic over Workers' Rights Award? The award will go to the corporate mouthpiece that spews the most outrageous claims about the Employee Free Choice Act—proposed federal legislation that strikes fear in the heart of corporate giants because it would restore workers' freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life.


Give Me a Union, Not a Wheelchair: The Case for EFCA

By Mike Elk

Currently under U.S. labor law, the penalty for an employer that robs someone of their job for expressing their right to join a union is just that. They have to post a piece of paper saying they illegally fired an employee from their job. As a result, nearly, one in five workers are fired from their jobs during the lead up to an NLRB union certification election.

If you ever wondered why union members refer to themselves as "brothers and sisters" during union rallies, it's because of the bond of solidarity that is formed during the intense harassment and firing of workers leading up to union certification elections. Companies hire union busting or "union relations consultants" 82 percent of the time  to run expensive, aggressive anti-union campaigns, costing typically in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. These union-busting firms are so effective that the biggest one, Labor Relations Institute, guarantees a defeat of a union-organizing drive or your money back.

Workers are forced to watch anti-union videos that imply starting a union will ruin their jobs, lower their wages, and erase their benefits. Employers threaten to close a factory 49 percent of the time  if a union wins an election (a violation of federal law)—despite the fact that only 2 percent of the time does this actually occur if a union wins an election. Workers are called in for a one-on-one meeting with their direct supervisor 90 percent of the time, where they make it known that they will be denied a promotion, stripped of their health benefits or perhaps even fired if they are suspected of supporting a union. Then to make sure there aren't enough votes for the union, employers will just fire a large number of union organizers right before the election

As a result of such Gestapo-style, union-busting tactics, only about half the time that workers petition for a union certification election are they actually successful. I have seen cases where we have nearly two-thirds of workers sign union cards when they petition for an NLRB union certification only to lose the election in a landslide after a long intimidation campaign. Studies have shown that 60 percent of workers want to join a union if they were able to but only 8 percent of private sector employees are members of unions.

Today, Sen.Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., will introduce the Employee Free Choice Act, which would give workers an opportunity to form unions freely. The Employee Free Choice Act would allow a union to be certified once a majority of the members of a plant signed a petition or card saying they wanted to be recognized as a union. No several-month period would exist between the initial certification petition and the NLRB certification election as it currently exists, limiting the ability of employers to pick off union organizers. In addition, the Employee Free Choice Act puts serious teeth into U.S. labor law, fining employers $20,000 for each employee fired—a lot more than the cost of the piece of paper employers are currently required to post.

Bush assumes his place in history