Sunday, February 22, 2009

22 Feb 2009

photo of Charlton Heston circa 1967
photo:David Sutton,

Some odds and ends:
UNT's CyberCemetery to preserve Internet sites from Bush administration. The UNT Libraries will preserve all federal government agencies' web sites that were created during the Bush administration.

Allison Kilkenny : "Obama’s War on Terror May Resemble Bush’s in Some Areas"

from Mark Kleiman's "Same Facts" blog: Jonathan Zasloff,
The Politics of Child Poverty

Admittedly this is from some three months ago, but I've been meaning to mention it.
(And it hasn't suddenly lost relevance in our post-GWB era of goodness and light.)

Happy Birthday Ronald Reagan (Thanks for Ruining America)By William Kleinknecht,AlterNet.

The Onion:"Nation's blacks creeped out by all the white people smiling at them"

from The Motley Fool:
"This bailout is great" and

"This bailout is terrible", both by Richard Gibbons.

Why this photo? The Oscars were on tonight but I didn't watch them. I generally did watch in my teens and twenties when I still thought they were relevant, but that was then. The girls are still pretty, of course, and I imagine they still do the luminaries-who-died-last year bit, so I thought that apropos of that I'd include this b&w image of Charlton Heston, who passed away in '07, seen here in his snazzy Jaguar E-type. I didn't care for most of his politics but it's hard to criticize his choice of wheels. Cross-posted at Dead Horse.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Killing your newspaper

Two recent articles, one in Time and one on the web in, discuss the decline of the newspaper.

Walter Isaacson, in Time,
How to Save Your Newspaper”, Feb. 05, 2009 and

Gary Kamiya, Salon,
"The death of the news: If reporting vanishes, the world will get darker and uglier. Subsidizing newspapers may be the only answer"

I would've liked to be able to post a response to Isaacson at Time's web site, but only Salon allows this:

Half-empty? No!

Dear Gary Kamiya,

1.With all due respect, I think you are 100 per cent wrong.
If the internet didn't exist, this article about the "death of the newspaper" would appear in some indie weekly, like the Village Voice, just as somebody else wrote about it recently in Time.
Newspapers have supposedly been dying for several decades now, and the culprit is clearly TV, not the internet.

I would argue that the internet has increased newspaper readership substantially, just not in as profitable a form as big media magnates would like. If anything, I suspect that ad revenue from the internet has probably helped stop the bleeding a bit, and (somewhat) deccelerated the rate of decline of traditonal newspapers at the hands of TV.

Another reader mentioned the UK's Guardian, approvingly. I imagine that reader wouldn't have access to the Guardian if not for the 'net. I know that I've also read scores of Guardian stories, but I've never bought a paper copy, or even seen one. Likewise, I hadn't even heard of Hong Kong's Asia Times, another supremely valuable "paper", let alone read anything in their pages, before I had internet access. I'm pretty sure my story applies to many people.

There will always be a demand, at least among some people, for serious journalism, and newspapers will continue to exist, but they need to figure out a way to make viable a business model whose bread-and-butter is the internet.

We will lose the paper that is all things to all people, with a section for everybody from most demographics, all rolled neatly into one rubber-bandable unit, and I can understand why some people will miss that, but I suspect that's inevitable.

But I'm very skeptical that subsidies are the answer. The subscriber model, like the one that

The Real News

and others have been trying to foster might hold some promise.

2. Still, there's no question, there is a huge mis-allocation of resources, and I think that somewhere down the line that needs to be addressed. Just think of how many news bureaus, of both the television and newspaper/net variety, you could open with just the salaries of Katie Couric and Brian Williams(!). Maybe we need a Big Hair Tax, with the proceeds given as grants to struggling news centers.

But that would be unfair, amusing as it is to momentarily daydream about. Better yet, reintroduce steeply progressive taxation and trust-bust the big media monopolies, and nobody would have a multi-million dollar salary, while thousands of others would have more mundane but practical opportunities to do real journalism. Sadly, I'm still dreaming.

from Walter Isaacson's insipid article
“How to Save Your Newspaper”, which I mentioned earlier:

This is not a business model that makes sense. Perhaps it appeared to when Web advertising was booming and every half-sentient publisher could pretend to be among the clan who "got it" by chanting the mantra that the ad-supported Web was "the future." But when Web advertising declined in the fourth quarter of 2008, free felt like the future of journalism only in the sense that a steep cliff is the future for a herd of lemmings. (See who got the world into this financial mess.)

Newspapers and magazines traditionally have had three revenue sources: newsstand sales, subscriptions and advertising. The new business model relies only on the last of these. That makes for a wobbly stool even when the one leg is strong. When it weakens — as countless publishers have seen happen as a result of the recession — the stool can't possibly stand.

me: this reasoning is garbage-- revenue from everything declined in 4Q 2008, as the recession intensified. And the “three legs of the stool" argument is also bollocks: broadcast television was immensely profitable for decades of “giving away” their content for free, while just depending on advertiser revenue. Now they have more competition, from cable TV and other media, but the advertiser-based model is still working pretty well for them. How could they otherwise afford to pay Brian and Katie all those previously-alluded-to millions if the "one-legged" advertiser-revenue model wasn't working for them?

Isaacson wants newspapers to go to micropayments, a particularly regressive idea that enemies of a mostly unregulated internet have been touting for some time now. It's also Big Brother-style intrusive-- do you really want your web surfing/consumption habits so closely monitored? Ultimately, of course, people like Isaacson attack the internet as it is presently formulated because it represents a rejection of authority-driven media, and, therefore, a rejection of the authority of the Walter Isaacsons of the world-- and a threat to their high-paying jobs.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cécile Manorohanta


BBC,"Madagascar defense minister quits":

Cécile Manorohanta said her conscience could not endure the bloodshed. She was replaced by the chief of military staff, Mamy Ranaivoniarivo. It comes amid a bitter power struggle between President Marc Ravalomanana and opposition leader Andry Rajoelina.

VOA News,"Madagascar Defense Minister Resigns After Bloodshed":

Opposition leader Andry Rajoelina has vowed to continue demonstrations that began last month. Rajoelina accuses President Marc Ravalomanana of being too authoritarian.

Over the weekend, police killed at least 28 demonstrators in Madagascar's capitol and Ms. Manorohanta resigned in protest, citing, besides her conscience, her role as a mother. I'll admit that before this weekend I didn't even know about the recent political unrest in Madagascar, let alone had I heard of Manorohanta.

But when I came across this news today, I couldn't help but think of Donald Rumsfeld, our last defense minister, er, secretary, to resign prematurely, and how different his reasons were: because he served "at the pleasure of the president", and the president was embarrassed by the outcome of the 2006 mid-terms. I also thought that I could never see anybody in the Bush II OR the Obama administration resigning over something like that. Condoleeza Rice? Hillary Clinton? Robert Gates?

Am I being unfair? I don't know. Although I think in many ways our government is probably just as corrupt as Marc Ravalomanana's seems to be, nobody's shooting Americans in the streets. And although it would be nice if Americans cared about their own government's many failings the way Madagascar's protestors do, obviously we shouldn't wish for a leader as (openly)thuggish as Ravalomanana.

But I also wonder: do people here make the connection, when we occasionally hear about stories like this one, why is it that Americans sometimes say that other countries need to be "taught" about democracy? I don't know what the level of formal education of the anti-government protesters who died this weekend might be, but I seriously doubt they wanted or needed any lessons from Americans about democracy.

one last snippet(it might be helpful to ignore writer Jonny Hogg's Thatcherist attitude, but I thought I'd include it anyway, for perspective):

BBC, "Deadly power struggle lays Madagascar low":

The damage to Madagascar's international reputation could be equally harmful. Under President Ravalomanana the country had been taking its first tentative steps into the global market after decades of socialist stagnation. Multinational corporations including Rio Tinto and Exxon Mobil have arrived, pouring millions of dollars into government coffers. The president himself has seen his own business interests - anything from dairy products to cooking oil - rise and rise.

However, in appealing to foreign investors the government alienated many Malagasy people. Food and fuel have become more expensive whilst the foreign funds have not improved the quality of life for most people. President Ravalomanana's reputation in the eyes of his critics has not been helped by his aggressive business approach and the fact that as his wealth continued to grow, the population was becoming poorer.

Equally harmful?

cross-posted at Dead Horse

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Buick follies

I found this strangely compelling.

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

banned by the bbc

Possibly you've heard about how the BBC refused to air an ad by a UK-based relief agency asking for help for people in Gaza. (Ordinarily you might call them refugees, except they're blockaded as well being bombed, so they have no place to go.) The BBC discusses it briefly, here. Video link above courtesy Wampum, via Jay Taber.

cross-posted at Dead Horse.

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