Monday, April 27, 2009

The Left's zeal to prosecute Bush administration over torture will cost them one of their own

Since 2002, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew the extent of torture the Bush administration was using on terrorists, and did not speak up in protest -- publicly on in private.

That's according to The Washington Post and further reporting by Politico.

So the Left's hunt for Bush administration officials to prosecute -- with the release of torture memos -- should logically and morally include one of their own -- Speaker Pelosi and other high-ranking Democrats.

At times of crisis, few in power are innocent.

Politico reports:

Nancy Pelosi didn’t cry foul when the Bush administration briefed her on “enhanced interrogation” of terror suspects in 2002, but her team was locked and loaded to counter hypocrisy charges when the “torture” memos were released last week.

Many Republicans obliged, led by former CIA chief Porter Goss, who is accusing Democrats like Pelosi of “amnesia” for demanding investigations in 2009 after failing to raise objections seven years ago when she first learned of the legal basis for the program.

“As soon as the president made the decision to release [the memos], I was telling people that the Republicans were going to come after us, saying she knew about it and did nothing,” said an adviser to Pelosi (D-Calif.), speaking on condition of anonymity. “And I’m sure we’re going to get hammered again when they release all those new torture photos,” the person said.

But Pelosi’s allies were less prepared to confront the fallout from her convoluted answers during three sessions with reporters last week — answers that raised new questions and handed Republicans a fresh line of attack on a speaker at the height of her power.

“I’m puzzled, I don’t understand what she’s trying to say,” said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and currently the committee’s ranking minority member.

“I don’t have any sympathy for her — she’s the speaker of the House; there should be some accountability. She shouldn’t be given a pass,” added Hoekstra.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) promised to keep up the heat, telling reporters last week, “She and other leaders were fully briefed on all of these interrogation techniques. There’s nothing here that should surprise her.”

EU health chief says avoid trips to Mexico, U.S.

The Associated Press reports the following warning to European travelers.

What I'd like to know is what we as American citizens should be doing? Should we be wearing masks out in public and avoiding large crowds since this respiratory illness is so catchable?

I'll be asking my hematologist that question today.

LUXEMBOURG - The European Union's health commissioner urged Europeans on Monday to postpone nonessential travel to the United States or Mexico due to swine flu.

EU Health Commissioner Andorra Vassiliou met with the EU foreign ministers on the subject as Spain reported the first confirmed case of swine flu in Europe. That was also the first swine flu case outside North America.

On arriving in Luxembourg, Vassiliou advised Europeans to reassess their travel plans.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Swine flu threat to United States is real and growing; NYT says it will take time for laboratories to determine if it's outbreak or edge of pandemic

In an ominous story just published late this evening, The New York Times describes the swine flu outbreak in Mexico and now with 20 confirmed cases in the United States as now possibly approaching the edge of a pandemic.

But we won't know for some time the size of threat due to the lack of facilities in North America to determine everything from the potency of the virus to how easily it is transmitted and who has an official case of the illness.

Reporting from Los Angeles, The Times of London sounded this ominous note about some Americans on the border being told to get painter's masks from hardware stores:

North of the border, in the US, doctors were advising people worried about the illness to buy painters’ masks from DIY stores as a precautionary measure. Authorities across the globe were torn between the imperative of slowing the spread of a potential flu pandemic and the need to avoid bringing every big city to a grinding halt.

Last night the US authorities were still allowing people to cross the border from Mexico, where it is thought that the swine flu emerged. But customs officials at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa crossings were given protective clothing.

The New York Times reports on this fast evolving story:

Responding to what some health officials feared could be the leading edge of a global pandemic emerging from Mexico, American health officials declared a public health emergency on Sunday as 20 cases of swine flu were confirmed in this country, including eight in New York City.

Other nations imposed travel bans or made plans to quarantine air travelers as confirmed cases also appeared in Mexico and Canada and suspect cases emerged elsewhere.

Top global flu experts struggled to predict how dangerous the new A (H1N1) swine flu strain would be as it became clear that they had too little information about Mexico’s outbreak — in particular how many cases had occurred in what is thought to be a month before the outbreak was detected, and whether the virus was mutating to be more lethal, or less.

“We’re in a period in which the picture is evolving,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, deputy director general of the World Health Organization. “We need to know the extent to which it causes mild and serious infections.”

Without that knowledge — which is unlikely to emerge soon because only two laboratories, in Atlanta and Winnipeg, Canada, can confirm a case — his agency’s panel of experts was unwilling to raise the global pandemic alert level, even though it officially saw the outbreak as a public health emergency and opened its emergency response center.

Mother regains custody of daughter only after husband is charged with child sex offenses; something is really wroing with our family courts

Bonnie Russell, long-time fighter against abuses by divore courts, reports a victory in one California case that was long coming and hard won.

Russell says the woman in this case originally came to her through one of her websites,, in trying to keep her daughter from her husband whom she suspected of sexual abuse because of his affection for child pornography.

And the woman only won after her husband was ultimately charged years later with sexual offenses against minors. The case is indicative of family courts operating completely beyond community moral standards and the law in decisions being rendered. If you are a woman with less money, you are at a distinct disadvantage that can result even in your jailing for speaking out in court and then losing all visitation rights to your children.

As Russell tells me, this case could be from Anytown, USA. From what we've seen in Tennessee, she is right. Something must change now with too family/divorce courts operated according to the judge's whim and bar association connections, not our standards of justice and what is best for the child. These are our courts, not the players in the judicial system.

The ABCNEWS affiliate in San Diego reports:

SAN DIEGO -- When Joyce Murphy gave birth late in life to a beautiful, healthy little girl, it was a surprise. Murphy was told she couldn't have children.

"I was ecstatic," she said.

She is a 20-year employee of the University of California, San Diego, and was married to Henry Parson when her daughter was born.

"In the beginning, he was very charming," she said.

But as their child grew, Murphy said, her husband's behavior became disturbing.

"He would wake me up at two o'clock in the morning, tell me about pornography he'd seen and wanted to reenact, and it was pornography about kids."

She became frightened of his post traumatic stress disorder from his tour in Vietnam, which included a story about raping villagers. She filed for divorce in 2002 when her daughter was 6.

A battle ensued in San Diego County Family Court over custody of the little girl.

Murphy claimed that her daughter was afraid of Parson.

"She would cry if she had to be left with him," said Murphy.

The young girl told a doctor that when Parson was angry he pushed down on her shoulders and injured her. The doctor reported it to Child Protective Service, which Murphy said termed the incident inconclusive.

"From that point on, I was demonized by the courts," she said.

She said she was viewed as a delusional, argumentative trouble maker, while Parson was viewed more favorably.

One therapist appointed by Family Court, Marilyn Marshall, wrote that Mr. Parson was "no danger to anyone, especially his daughter."

"So this therapist said it was my fears of the father that was making the child afraid," Murphy explained.

Parsons was granted immediate overnight visits.

"And I just broke," said Murphy. "I thought, either I go to jail or I protect my child. It was like a primal instinct."

Murphy took her daughter and ran. She was arrested in Florida, brought to San Diego and tossed in jail.

She eventually pleaded no contest to felony kidnapping, accepting the charge without admitting guilt. She was placed on probation.

"I was told I was toxic to my daughter," said Murphy.

Her bosses at UCSD stood by her, but she lost her daughter to her ex-husband and was granted only limited visitation.

"And I thought, all I'm trying to do is protect my little girl from someone I know is a danger," said Murphy.

So she waited and worried for six years, until a call last November. Murphy had to pick up her daughter, because another young girl had bravely come forward, accusing Parson of molesting her. Parson was now the one behind bars.

"This man is a monster, and he hurts little girls," said Murphy.

The criminal complaint charges Parson with hurting three girls, two of them younger than 14 years old. The charges include oral sex with a child, molestation, possessing child porn and using a child to make porn.

A report from the District Attorney's Office said, "The defendant's computers and camera were seized ... revealed numerous photographs of young girls."

Using those photographs, an Oceanside police officer was able to identify and speak with one of the girls, which led to more charges against Parson.

Joyce Murphy feels vindicated, but it's bittersweet.

"I blame the entire family court system," she said, "because they are not held accountable."

I-Team reporter Lauren Reynolds posed the question to the supervising judge of the San Diego County Family Court, Lorna Alksne.

"Is family court doing a good job?"

"Family court is doing an excellent job," Alksne said.

She said each judge must juggle between 200 and 300 cases every month. She said the judges read before work, after work and during breaks to be prepared for their full day of hearings.

She can't comment directly on the Murphy case, and was not involved, but she acknowledges the need for improvement in how child custody cases are decided.

"Family Court has, statewide, some issues on how do you really make a determination on where children should live?"

Joyce Murphy said Family Court's only good decision in her case was granting her full permanent custody of her daughter after her ex husband was jailed.

Henry Parson's daughter is not one of the victims alleged in the criminal complaint. Parson declined to speak with the 10News I-Team. His attorney has a policy of not commenting on pending criminal cases.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Gore hands Blackburn her head in hearing on climate change; she was one brain short in battle of wits on a topic way beyond her understanding

In a match of Tennessee intellect, former Vice President Al Gore on Friday showed Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn to be one brain short as he made her look very foolish for questions she asked concerning whether he was personally profiting from climate change legislation.

You can see the exchange at

Gore was testifying as founder of the Alliance for Climate Protection, a non-profit working to try and save this world from its ongoing environmental mistakes.

Blackburn cited a New York Times story about an environmental firm Gore has invested in and questioned whether he would profiting from legislation he was supporting before the congressional committee.

Gore rightly unloaded on Blackburn for her low-blow tactics and told her any profits from his environmental investments go to fund the non-profit he heads to educate the world.

Blackburn said she was only asking questions asked of her by constituents. Gore said he knew her true motivations and that he has been working on climate change for 30 years. And greed has not been his motivation.

Nice try, Marsha.

Next time, Congresswoman, don't match wits unless you have some wits of your own. Gore made you look very foolish and petty considering the incredibly serious matter at hand being discussed by the committee.

Fewer Americans see TV as necessity: I agree; I'm into my second month without it and doing fine

Floyd Norris of The New York Times writes that a Pew survey released today found the lowest percentage of Americans -- in 36 years of questioning -- consider TV to be a necessity.

Yes, just 52 percent of Americans see it as a must.

I agree. I'm finishing my second month without television and doing quite dandy.

For more of us, a computer, Internet and cell phone are the necessities of living a connected life. And I believe that means connecting to more people than through watching the boob tube.

Change is good. Twitter, anyone?

Veterans get apology from Obama Cabinet member for memo connecting them with right wing extremist groups as terrorist threat

Veterans yesterday got an apology from the head of the Department of Homeland Security for a memo she put out concerning domestic terrorist threats and who among us might be more prone to join.

The apology was needed along with an assurance that veterans from the Iraq war would not be singled out for more scrutiny than any other citizen. The only way to get that assurance and sense of respect for service rendered is to press for an apology and explanation.

CNN reports:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano apologized Friday for a department assessment that suggested returning combat veterans could be recruited by right-wing extremist groups.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says she offered her "sincere apologies for any offense."

She met with American Legion National Commander David Rehbein at Homeland Security headquarters.

"The secretary started the meeting with an apology to me personally, to the American Legion and to the entire veterans community," Rehbein told reporters after the meeting.

In a statement issued by the department, Napolitano said, "We connected meaningfully about the important issues that have emerged over recent days, and I offered him my sincere apologies for any offense to our veterans caused by this report. ... I pledge that the department has fixed the internal process that allowed this document to be released before it was ready."

The report was an unclassified assessment sent to law enforcement agencies. It was titled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment."

The mention of combat veterans surfaced on a conservative radio program earlier this month, and it drew the scorn of commentators and conservative members of Congress. Rep. John Carter, R -Texas, called on Napolitano to resign.

Now it's time to move on.

Mayor, school board on collision course: How can Nashville build a $1 billion convention center when it is cutting teachers for failing schools?

In this ongoing tale of two cities, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean on Thursday described the "about to wet his pants" need for the city to build a $1 billion convention center with a hotel.

Entertainer Keith Urban, who provided entertainment for the State of the City speech, even chimed in about the need. I didn't even know he and Nicole Kidman lived in Davidson County.

Yet a day later in what is supposed to be the Athens of the South, the Metro school board was forced to pass $15 million in cuts on the working poor employed by the district and teachers. Yes, teacher positions will be cut in a school district that has failed to meet No Child Left Behind Act standards for five years.

More, the board discussed the need to cut another $20 million because the mayor does not want to do the politically unpopular thing of raising property taxes. And with the recession, there certainly is not enough sales tax to go around. So let's get rid of textbooks while we're at it.

How can teachers bet cut when the district is out of compliance with federal education law? This is a gross civil rights violation. Is there any attorney and organization out there willing to go to federal court to ask this question and slap a TRO on Dean's budget and his convention center plan?

The gross immorality of pushing a convention center -- that the Nashville Scene in its most recent edition proved would not meet pie in the sky economic projections -- while cutting teacher positions and boosting class sizes is truly Bredesen-like. And it is appropriate that Dean is Bredesen's student when it comes to compassionate government.

But the movers and shakers in this community don't send their kids to public schools anyway, or manage to get them into magnet ones while the majority of Nashville children flounder in a dysfunctional education system.

If the people of Nashville allow this tale of two cities to continue, they'll pay the price with higher crime, more exodus of families and schools that never will be turned around. Folks, you only get one chance to do the right thing.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Here is why some Tea Party protestors gathered and shouted: General Motors gets another $2 billion in taxpayer money on its way to bankruptcy

For some reason, MSNBC decided Janeane Garafolo was an appropriate political analyst to offer a sane comment on the reason behind all the taxpayer Tea Party protests on April 15.

And Garafolo, who was an abject failure as an Air America radio political host, went on to label all protesters as racists, that there only reason for protesting was that a black man was in the White House.

The insanity of that remark would make Charles Manson blush. And it is indicative of extreme comments I find more common from the Left than the Right. That MSNBC would air the kind of caustic crap reduces the little credibility it has with Keith O. and Rachel M. rattling on.

The reason for the protests, at least how I viewed them, was the derelict amount of spending in Washington to bail out an entire industry and corporations that made arrogant mistakes and in some cases committed fraud. I don't believe in corporate welfare or socialism.

Meanwhile, people paying their bills and doing the right thing get nothing as unemployment rates in more states hit double digits. Tennessee is at 9.6 percent.

Yet today, the U.S. Treasury announced that it has given General Motors another $2 billion in taxpayer money for working capital. This is a company headed to bankruptcy. It is like giving a person who is going to drink and drive an extra gallon of gas.

Who voted for Barack Obama to bail out the AIG of automakers?

Despite what Garafolo and MSNBC say, there remains plenty of reason to protest.

AP reports:

WASHINGTON – Taxpayers invested another $2 billion in General Motors Corp. this week as the struggling auto giant continued efforts to restructure and avoid bankruptcy court.

The Treasury Department said Friday it lent the additional money to GM on Wednesday to provide working capital. The loan pushes the total amount of GM's government aid to $15.4 billion after the company said it would need more money in the second quarter to stay afloat.

A government report revealed earlier this week that the Treasury was prepared to provide GM with up to $5 billion more in federal loans and Chrysler with up to $500 million more in bailout support as they race against deadlines to restructure.

Intolerance by the Left remains its biggest handicap that mitigates its effectiveness

In my political writing, I have found people on the Left much more intolerant of different thinking on issues than those on the Right.

And in its most recent act of arrogance, the Left has made a media darling of a Miss USA runner-up contestant who had the courage to say she was against gay marriage -- then lost the crown.

A gay judge on the Miss USA panel has flip-flopped on whether her answer lost her the crown. But he and the crowd sure did not like her answer and booed.

The appropriateness of the question in the contest should have been criticized instead of the contestant's answer. What a Miss USA contestant thinks about gay marriage or federal bailouts means nothing to wearing the crown.

Riding in parades and cutting ribbons at business openings do not require such positions. And if asked by the media in interviews, all she has to say is "no comment; that has nothing to do with my title. The USA I represent has to do with finding common ground and unity, not debating divisive issues".

Politico reports:

Miss California may have lost her shot at becoming Miss USA after expressing her opposition to same-sex marriage but she’s nevertheless emerged as a star.

After getting booed by the beauty pageant crowd and berated by one of the contest judges Sunday, Carrie Prejean is suddenly a conservative sensation, a poster girl for the right who has bloggers, talk show hosts and Republican pols singing her praises.

Prejean’s beauty contest saga began Sunday when competition judge and openly gay blogger Perez Hilton asked her if she supports gay marriage.

“We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite. And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman,” she responded during the televised event. “No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised.”

Her response wasn’t exactly what Hilton—or the crowd—was expecting. Prejean ultimately finished as the first runner-up in the competition to Miss North Carolina, who drew a less combustible question about taxpayer bailouts. In an interview the next day with NBC “Today Show” host Matt Lauer, Prejean said she knew she wasn’t going to win the moment she answered.

Hilton later said in a video on his blog that Prejean’s answer did not sink her chances of winning, though his disdain for her was unmistakable.

“She lost not because she doesn’t believe in gay marriage. Miss California lost because she is a dumb [expletive].”

What a class guy.

Forget about Rush Limbaugh. The Left often is its biggest enemy.

Warning to readers: If you comment anonymously on Gannett newspaper websites, company reserves right to identify you to powerful who ask

Readers be warned.

If you sign up and register for a Gannett newspaper website, and then comment anonymously about an article, your identity can be disclosed to someone who asks -- in this case, a powerful local official in Wisconsin angry over continuing criticism by a reader.

The case in Wassau has resulted in the powerful public official sending a letter on government stationery threatening to sue the reader for libel since he commented on the official's weight and appearance in his criticism.

Gannett says its reserves the right to release your information for legal and business reasons. That's a really broad avenue. And it offers a potentially stifling impact on public comment in the marketplace of ideas.

To read more about the case, go to

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New national study on test score disparity proves the truth: poor, minority child's plight determined by quality, training of teachers and principals

A new national study on test score disparities between white and minority students has reaffirmed an essential truth that operators of charter public schools have always known and state teachers unions have tried to avoid and even lie about.

It is the quality of the teachers and principal at a school that is the biggest determinant in closing the achievement gaps. And if we did, the national GDP would gain %3 billion to $5 billion more each day from a more educated workforce. Then, America would not have ship in computer software and programming specialists from overseas.

President Barack Obama has asked for education reforms aimed directly at the quality of teachers and principals by calling for open enrollment for charter public schools. They are allowed to set new standards for curriculum geared to the child's needs and set higher standards for teacher performance. They also spend much less money on administration and political patronage jobs.

Teacher unions don't want such changes. And in Tennessee, the state teachers union is fighting legislaton to open up enrollment for charter schools and lift the cap on their numbers. Sadly, they have black Memphis lawmakers on their side even though African-American children are suffering in traditional public schools and from a system first geared to preserving union member jobs no matter the poor level of performance.

The evidence continues to mount that the problems in public education do not primarily belong with the parents and the environment from which the poor and minority children come. It is with the training and commitment of the people running the schools and the lack of accountability for their poor performance in turn for your tax dollars.

And universities are not turning out teachers with the experience of how to nurture and teach children from difficult environments. Practicums are based on the ideal, not the reality.

Too much in American public education is geared to serve money-sucking institutions -- from the teaching colleges to the teacher unions to the vast district administration. The child comes last, as do taxpayers who are always told they need to provide more funding.

There is enough public education spending in this nation. There is not enough accountability for those dollars in performance and results.

These test score disparities are going to sink this economy in a new century of dramatic economic change. We won't have the educated workforce to compete with China and India. And our standard of living will plummet.

It's our choice. Support the change of charter public schools and tell the teacher union to put the children first before members' job security.

The New York Times reports in this excerpt:

WASHINGTON — The lagging performance of American schoolchildren, particularly among poor and minority students, has had a negative economic impact on the country that exceeds that of the current recession, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The study, conducted by the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, pointed to bleak disparities in test scores on four fronts: between black and Hispanic children and white children; between poor and wealthy students; between Americans and students abroad; and between students of similar backgrounds educated in different parts of the country.

The report concluded that if those achievement gaps were closed, the yearly gross domestic product of the United States would be trillions of dollars higher, or $3 billion to $5 billion more per day.

This was the second report on education issues by the firm’s social sector office, which said it was not commissioned by any government, business or other institution. Starting in fall 2008, the researchers reviewed federal and international tests and interviewed education researchers and economists.

In New York City, an analysis of 2007 federal test scores for fourth graders showed strikingly stratified achievement levels: While 6 percent of white students in city schools scored below a base achievement level on math, 31 percent of black students and 26 percent of Hispanic students did. In reading, 48 percent of black students and 49 percent of Hispanic students failed to reach that base level, but 19 percent of white students did.

The New York City schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, who introduced the findings at the National Press Club in Washington, said the study vindicated the idea that the root cause of test-score disparities was not poverty or family circumstances, but subpar teachers and principals. He pointed to an analysis in the report showing low-income black fourth graders from the city outperformed students in all other major urban districts on reading (they came in second in math).

“Schools can be the game changer,” he said. “We are able to get very, very different results with the same children.”

State unemployment rate soars to 9.6; Tennessee joins Mississippi, North Carolina in rates near or above double digits; human misery much higher

Tennessee's unemployment rate for March matched anecdotal evidence across state communities, soaring to 9.6 percent. A year ago, the rate was 5.7 percent.

The national unemployment rate for March was 8.5%.

Perry County had the highest rate -- an incredible 25.4%. WPLN did a good story earlier this week in talking to residents about searching for work in such a desperate environment and how they want their children as adults to move away.

The misery in the county was most evident from the interviews that were very well done.

It also is evident each Sunday at churches, where parishioners and pastors talk openly about who has been laid off and trading recommendations on where people can look for work or get help.

Tennessee's unemployment rate truly is at a crisis level, considering that it does not consider people who have simply quit looking for work after many months of no luck. Nashville's rate is about 8 percent.

Somebody better tell Gov. Bredesen we have a crisis on our hands and lawmakers to quit taking up so much time worrying about where people can take their guns and debating resolutions about slavery.

Lord, if this is all lawmakers have to meet about, it would be better they stay home and turn over their per diem expense checks to the local food pantries in their districts. That would do the people of this state some good.

HOLY S**T! The Scene grows a pair and tells the truth about Mayor Dean's convention center

After its big tomato festival spread about east Nashville, the Scene fell off my reading list.

It had lost so much fire and fury with the departure of its leader Liz Murray Garrigan. And the changes brought in by the new editor watered down the product's sense of immediacy and its undeniable swagger.

But this week, the old Scene returned in spectacular fashion with a well-reported and deftly written cover piece taking apart the Chamber of Commerce rah-rah pitch by Mayor Karl Dean and his Dean-ees about the city's desperate, "I'm going to pee my pants" need to build a billion-dollar convention center and hotel.

I'm not going to recite every pie in the sky-popping point reporter Caleb Hannan wrote and key statistics cited -- from other cities that showed how projections never met reality in big-time convention cities such as Boston and St. Louis.

But he told a complete story that is going to become a fiscal tragedy for Nashville if it drinks the fiscal Kool-Aid Mayor Dean is offering.

Remember, Dean is a student of Gov. Bredesen. People really never meant a lot of Bredesen as Nashville's mayor. He just wanted to make big deals with fellow millionaires and build things. But his deals turned out to be losers for taxpayers.

Dean's dream will be no different.

Folks, Nashville was a great city way before the Titans or Predators came. It probably was America's best kept secret for a place to live and make a living. Now it is in immediate danger of becoming much less, as the profiteers make more snake oil appeals of incredible riches on the other side of construction worksite.

So here's to the Scene. Welcome back!

We've missed you.

More -- with Dean still pouring his Kool-Aid and The Tennessean setting on the horizon as far as offering any oversight of such boondoggles -- we need you, your courage and your edge.

Making a mockery of Mother's Day; U.S. couples are stealing Hispanic children as mothers cry

While much news media focus has rightly been placed on interrogation methods to which this nation stooped during the war on terror, more needs to be focused on the inhumanity the Bush administration unleashed here at home on immigrants during his last years in office.

Unable to get his own political party to back reform of immigration law, Bush turned punitive on immigrants as his poll numbers plummeted. Yet he did not impress his own party. Nor did he make the nation safer by deterring people crossing the border. He just raised the misery level and degree of inhumanity here along with that overseas in Iraq.

The New York Times today reports that the Bush administration push to make illegal immigrants detained in worksite raids to serve prison sentences has led to mothers of children losing custody of their children to adopting American couples.

It is nothing short of theft, the most immoral kind. And it is being allowed because the skin of the mothers is brown and they do not speak the English language.

And instead of traveling thousands of miles to foreign lands and making several visits to adopt, American couples now are stealing Hispanic children simply by hiring a lawyer who makes a case to a local judge who doesn't like all the immigrants in his town.

Since these mothers are in prison, they are considered by state and local judges not to be able to care for their children. And the judges will not allow contact or provisions to be made with relatives back in home countries to take the children until mom gets out of her political imprisonment.

It is a misdemeanor to be in this nation illegally. And this nation has customarily simply deported offenders. But Bush decided to change policy and charge some offenders with a felony for showing false identification in the workplace.

And so there are prison sentences handed down, even to mothers responsible for children. Any American with money -- particularly a mother with the sole responsibility for a child -- could easily get out of serving any jail time for showing a false ID. But you can't if you don't have money to hire an attorney and speak the language.

Our laws must provide equal protection to even non-citizens, because we want the same afforded to Americans in foreign countries. This kind of injustice is far from equal protection.

The Times story is shocking and a gross miscarriage of natural law, let alone human rights. The Obama administration has promised to investigate. It needs to do more than that immediately.

As Mother's Day approaches, this outrage makes a mockery of the celebration in this nation. If American couples want children, they should not steal them from Hispanic mothers:

CARTHAGE, Mo. — When immigration agents raided a poultry processing plant near here two years ago, they had no idea a little American boy named Carlos would be swept up in the operation.

One of the 136 illegal immigrants detained in the raid was Carlos’s mother, EncarnaciĆ³n Bail Romero, a Guatemalan. A year and a half after she went to jail, a county court terminated Ms. Bail’s rights to her child on grounds of abandonment. Carlos, now 2, was adopted by a local couple.

In his decree, Judge David C. Dally of Circuit Court in Jasper County said the couple made a comfortable living, had rearranged their lives and work schedules to provide Carlos a stable home, and had support from their extended family. By contrast, Judge Dally said, Ms. Bail had little to offer.

“The only certainties in the biological mother’s future,” he wrote, “is that she will remain incarcerated until next year, and that she will be deported thereafter.”

It is unclear how many children share Carlos’s predicament. But lawyers and advocates for immigrants say that cases like his are popping up across the country as crackdowns against illegal immigrants thrust local courts into transnational custody battles and leave thousands of children in limbo.

“The struggle in these cases is there’s no winner,” said Christopher Huck, an immigration lawyer in Washington State.

He said that in many cases, what state courts want to do “conflicts with what federal immigration agencies are supposed to do.”

“Then things spiral out of control,” Mr. Huck added, “and it ends up in these real unfortunate situations.”

Next month, the Nebraska Supreme Court is scheduled to hear an appeal by Maria Luis, a Guatemalan whose rights to her American-born son and daughter were terminated after she was detained in April 2005 on charges of falsely identifying herself to a police officer. She was later deported.

And in South Carolina, a Circuit Court judge has been working with officials in Guatemala to find a way to send the baby girl of a Guatemalan couple, Martin de Leon Perez and his wife, Lucia, detained on charges of drinking in public, to relatives in their country so the couple does not lose custody before their expected deportation.

Patricia Ravenhorst, a South Carolina lawyer who handles immigration cases, said she had tried “to get our judges not to be intimidated by the notion of crossing an international border.”

“I’ve asked them, ‘What would we do if the child had relatives in New Jersey?’ ” Ms. Ravenhorst said. “We’d coordinate with the State of New Jersey. So why can’t we do the same for a child with relatives in the highlands of Guatemala?”

Dora Schriro, an adviser to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, said the agency was looking for ways to deal with family separations as it prepared new immigration enforcement guidelines. In visits to detention centers across the country, Ms. Schriro said, she had heard accounts of parents losing contact or custody of their children.

Child welfare laws differ from state to state. In the Missouri case, Carlos’s adoptive parents were awarded custody last year by Judge Dally after they privately petitioned the court and he terminated Ms. Bail’s rights to Carlos.

In February, immigration authorities suspended Ms. Bail’s deportation order so she could file suit to recover custody. Ms. Bail’s lawyer, John de Leon, of Miami, said his client had not been informed about the adoption proceedings in her native Spanish, and had no real legal representation until it was too late.

The lawyer for Carlos’s adoptive parents, Joseph L. Hensley, said his clients had waited more than a year for Ms. Bail to demonstrate her commitment to Carlos, but the judge found that she had made no attempt to contact the baby or send financial support for him while she was incarcerated. The couple asked not to be named to protect Carlos’s privacy.

Ms. Bail came to the United States in 2005, and Carlos was born a year later. In May 2007, she was detained in a raid on George’s Processing plant in Butterfield, near Carthage in southwestern Missouri.

Immigration authorities quickly released several workers who had small children. But authorities said Ms. Bail was ineligible to be freed because she was charged with using false identification. Such charges were part of a crackdown by the Bush administration, which punished illegal immigrants by forcing them to serve out sentences before being deported.

Martin de Leon Perez and his wife, Lucia, who have been in a South Carolina jail for eight months, in their monthly visit with their daughter, Marisela Diana.
When Ms. Bail went to jail, Carlos, then 6 months old, was sent to stay with two aunts who remembered him as having a voracious appetite and crying constantly. But they also said he had a severe rash and had not received all of his vaccinations.

The women — each with three children of their own, no legal status, tiny apartments and little money — said the baby was too much to handle. So when a local teachers’ aide offered to find someone to take care of Carlos, the women agreed.

Then in September 2007, Ms. Bail said, the aide visited her in jail to say that an American couple was interested in adopting her son. The couple had land and a beautiful house, Ms. Bail recalled being told, and had become very fond of Carlos.

“My parents were poor, and they never gave me to anyone,” Ms. Bail recalled. “I was not going to give my son to anyone either.”

An adoption petition arrived at the jail a few weeks later. Ms. Bail, who cannot read Spanish, much less English, said she had a cellmate from Mexico translate. With the help of a guard and an English-speaking Guatemalan visitor, Ms. Bail wrote a response to the court.

“I do not want my son to be adopted by anyone,” she scrawled on a sheet of notebook paper on Oct. 28, 2007. “I would prefer that he be placed in foster care until I am not in jail any longer. I would like to have visitation with my son.”

For the next 10 months, she said, she had no communication with the court. During that time, Judge Dally appointed a lawyer for Ms. Bail, but later removed him from the case after he pleaded guilty to charges of domestic violence.

Mr. Hensley, the lawyer for Carlos’s adoptive parents, said he had sent a letter to Ms. Bail to tell her that his clients were caring for her son, as did the court, but both letters were returned unopened. “We afforded her more due process than most people get who speak English,” Mr. Hensley said.

Ms. Bail said she had asked the public defender who was representing her in the identity theft case to help her determine Carlos’s whereabouts, but the lawyer told her she handled only criminal matters. “I went to court six times, and six times I asked for help to find my son,” she said. “But no one helped me.”

Ms. Bail got a Spanish-speaking lawyer, Aldo Dominguez, to represent her in the custody case only last June. By the time he reached her two months later — she had been transferred to a prison in West Virginia — it was too late to make her case to Judge Dally, Mr. Dominguez said.

“Her lifestyle, that of smuggling herself into the country illegally and committing crimes in this country, is not a lifestyle that can provide stability for a child,” the judge wrote in his decision. “A child cannot be educated in this way, always in hiding or on the run.”

Obama's budget cuts hit newspaper subscriptions

President Obama has shown a trend of not calling on newspaper reporters during his press conferences, inferring the industry's lessening impact on public opinion and in American households.

Now he's hitting the industry where it really hurts, reports AP.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Homeland Security Department is dropping some newspaper and magazine subscriptions to save money.

The agency has told its employees to cancel subscriptions to general interest newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post and to magazines such as Newsweek and Time by April 27.

Future subscriptions will have to be authorized in advance. The department says employees will still have access to news because most publications can be found online on an in-house Web site.

Limited subscriptions to those that aren't online will be kept in a public area and shared, cutting mail screening and delivery costs.

Spokeswoman Sara Kuban said the agency is expecting the moves to save money but does not know how much.

Read this Tribune piece that newspaper execs would rather you not; the loss of too many good journalists is why most papers won't survive

I had the privilege yesterday to catch up with Tim Ghianni, a former Tennessean columnist who was the only scribe in my time there to win the state AP's top award for commentary.

The guy could tell a story and spur a cause. More than anything, he just knew his community, and his readers loved him for it. Ghianni was part of a group of good, hustling journalists who came over from the Nashville Banner.

The day its owners decided to sell out to Gannett and close was the worst day in Nashville journalism. Everyone ultimately lost from that deal except the profiteers.

After I lost my job at The Tennessean, Ghianni accepted one of many buyouts America's news execs and managers have used to clear out a lot of the best talent and institutional knowledge in newsrooms. He served a stint as a Vanderbilt journalist in residence. He continues to write, and I'll post his writing on the passing of Banner Editor Eddie Jones on April 5.

Jones deserves to be remembered. The Banner knew Nashville as a newspaper should.

The point of me telling you about Ghianni is that he represents why print journalism will never rebound, and will probably continue to crater. When journalists like him leave and others forced out, the industry just loses another piece of its soul and further connection with its readers.

Below, you'll find another casualty, ironically a reporter directed by his managers at The Chicago Tribune to write a personal blog on the recession. His diary spoke of his family's fight to make ends meet.

Then, this week, he got laid off by the very newspaper that asked him to write about the effect of the recession on his household. I know that sounds hard to believe. The absolute cruelty of it and other decisions by newsroom managers across this nation -- who have no business having authority over the lives of good people -- are legion in what used to be my profession.

Below is the writer's last blog post for his diary. The Tribune pulled it down from its website. They did not want you or any other readers to see it.

But it deserves to be read. The Tribune Co. recently asked a bankruptcy judge to approve $13 million in bonuses to managers making these kind of decisions. Gannett, which owns The Tennessean, has been no kinder in its decisions while its execs and top editors still enjoy their bonuses and excesses. One high corporate exec recently charged the company $15,000 for his entry in a pro-am golf tournament. He then paid for it himself after his brazen act was revealed on

Such an act is considered bad form when the entry fee represents half a laid-off journalist's salary.

For all the good and talented journalists who have left our profession or been forced out, there will be justice one day.

For now, let us not forget and find new ways to keep up with our friends -- who also happened to be our readers:

Goodbye from Lou Carlozo

The recession has truly hit home.

This will be my last post as a Chicago Tribune staff writer, and the author of the Recession Diaries.

Today, just an hour ago, I received word that this will be my last week as a Chicago Tribune employee. So as you can see, no one is immune from the recession–not even someone who writes about it daily, diligently and with an eye towards serving those who have had their bank accounts drained, their retirement accounts dashed, their hearts broken, and their hopes placed under a dangling sword of despair.

I, for one, refuse to be bitter or ungrateful. While it will take me some time to process being unemployed after 20-odd years in the field I love, I recognize now how much I need to take the advice I gave to you with every ounce of my passion. That is: Account for those things no recession can take away from you. Your faith in God. Your family. Your friends. Your health. Your many blessings.

I am part of an industry-wide trend that will likely result in the death of print journalism within five years time. That is not what the higher-ups would like me to tell you, nor is it a result of anything wrong that they have done. On the contrary, I admire Sam Zell and all he has done to keep this company going. I have not always agreed with the new ownership’s decisions or rationale, but my opinions come from an uniformed perspective. I write for deadline; I do not know the intricacies of finance and balancing the books. (Perhaps my early dispatches on the recession front have proved this.)

So where will I be? Looking for a job. Playing with my kids. Walking, talking and praying with my wife. And of course, praying for and hopefully hearing from you, my readers, who have made this year of 2009 one of the most rewarding ever. I started in this business in 1989 as a long-haired kid without a clue about journalism, but a heart for the written word, public service and fighting for the little guy. My hair has long since vanished–oh, the vagaries of middle age!–but the idealist and optimist in me refuses to walk gently into that good night. Nor will I allow it to do so.

Also, a tip of the hat to the best boss a man could ask for, Lara Weber. It was her idea to start this blog, and without her inspiration, support, and most of all guidance and good cheer, I could not have achieved anything on the recession reporting front. She’s a woman any journalist would be lucky to call boss, confidant and dear, dear friend. I will miss you, Lara.

Please stay in touch, and wish me luck.
In God’s Peace, Lou

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The first shoe drops: GM to shut most of its plants for 9 weeks this summer as inventories, debt build

The first of many cuts to come was leaked from General Motors this afternoon that the automaker would shut most of its plants for nine weeks this summer.

GM faces a June 1 deadline on debt payment that it does not expect to meet. The alternative is bankruptcy reorganization.

The economic ripple effect will undoubtedly be substantial, here in Middle Tennessee and in Michigan.

AP reports:

DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors Corp. is planning to temporarily close most of its U.S. factories for up to nine weeks this summer because of slumping sales and growing inventories of unsold vehicles, two people briefed on the plan said Wednesday.

The exact dates of the closures were not known, but both people said they will occur around the normal two-week shutdown in July to change from one model year to the next. Neither person wanted to be identified because workers have not been told of the shutdowns.

GM spokesman Chris Lee would not comment other than to say the company notifies employees before making any production cuts public.

The automaker is living on $13.4 billion in government loans and faces a June 1 deadline to cut its debt, reduce labor costs and take other restructuring steps. If it doesn't meet the deadline, the company's CEO has said it will enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

United Auto Workers officials at several factories said they have meetings scheduled Thursday and Friday with plant managers and GM human resource officials to discuss production changes.

The automaker's sales were down 49 percent in the first quarter compared with the same period last year, and GM had a 123-day supply of cars and trucks at the end of March, according to Ward's AutoInfoBank. GM already has more than a six-month supply of several models.

Southern Poverty Law Center calls treatment of low-income Latinos in Nashville and the South a civil rights 'crisis' demanding reform legislation

The Southern Poverty Law Center, the premiere civil rights investigatory organization in this region, has called the treatment of Hispanics in Nashville and the South a civil rights crisis that demands action.

In turn, Hispanics call their treatment here and in other parts of the South as like being in "a war zone", according to the report "Under Siege: Life for Low-Income Latinos in the South".

Nashville was one of five cities besides other towns examined by the center in its investigation.

Music City is a natural place to start due to the human rights abuse of a Hispanic woman about to give birth last July. She was arrested for a traffic violation later dismissed, tortured during labor by the Davidson County sheriff's department, requiring her to be shackled. She subsequently was separated from her child and and not allowed to express her milk for her infant's health and the relieving of her pain.

A federal lawsuit has been filed over her treatment.

The Southern Poverty Law Center cited numerous instances of Hispanics being denied their wages. There also is a presumption by law enforcement officials that they are here illegally just because of how they look.

That is called racial profiling.

Nashville, purported to be the cradle of the civil rights movement, has shown itself to be outrageously bigoted in how it treats Hispanics, here legally or not, born in this nation or not. Their status as being human beings, let alone heads of families, does not come into consideration.

The continuation of the heinous 287g deportation program by elected officials here has destroyed many families and resulted in the unlawful detention for hours of hundreds of immigrants legally here.

The report cries out for action by Nashville officials, and not just believing they have shown themselves to be a tolerant city simply by defeating an English only referendum. They did for Chamber of Commerce business reasons, not moral ones.

Finally, a prominent organization has put Nashville on record for its bigotry. Now let's see if Nashville responds to this blight on its image:

Low-income Latino immigrants in the South are routinely the targets of wage theft, racial profiling and other abuses driven by an anti-immigrant climate that harms all Latinos regardless of their immigration status, according to a report released today by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The report — Under Siege: Life for Low-Income Latinos in the South — documents the experiences of Latino immigrants who face increasing hostility as they fill low-wage jobs in Southern states that had few Latino residents until recent years.

"This report documents the human toll of failed policies that relegate millions of people to an underground economy, where they are beyond the protection of the law," said Mary Bauer, author of the report and director of the SPLC's Immigrant Justice Project. "Workplace abuses and racial profiling are rampant in the South."

Under Siege is based on a survey of 500 low-income Latinos — including legal residents, undocumented immigrants and U.S. citizens — at five locations in the South. The locations were Nashville, Charlotte, New Orleans, rural southern Georgia, and several towns and cities in northern Alabama.

The survey findings, coupled with accounts from in-depth interviews, depict a region where Latinos are routinely cheated out of wages by employers and denied basic health and safety protections. They are racially profiled by overzealous law enforcement agents and victimized by criminals who know they are reluctant to report crime to these same authorities. Even legal residents and U.S. citizens of Latino descent said racial profiling, bigotry and other forms of discrimination are staples of their daily lives.

A number of immigrants in the survey described the South as a "war zone."

"The assumption is that every Latino possibly is undocumented," Angeles Ortega-Moore, an immigrant advocate in North Carolina, told SPLC researchers. "So it [discrimination] has spread over into the legal population."

Maria, who came to Tennessee from Colombia, told SPLC researchers her immigration papers are in order, but she is still afraid of being stopped by the police. "You never know when you will come across a racist police officer," she says in the report.

Discrimination against Latinos in the region constitutes a civil rights crisis that must be addressed, the SPLC report says. The report concludes that comprehensive immigration reform — including a workable path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants — is the only realistic, fair and humane solution.

Reform legislation must be coupled with strong enforcement of labor and civil rights protections. This would make crime victims and communities safer, curb racial profiling and other abuses, and better protect the wages and working conditions of all workers, according to the report.

"We're talking about a matter of basic human rights here," said SPLC President Richard Cohen. "By allowing this cycle of abuse and discrimination to continue, we're creating an underclass of people who are invisible to justice and undermining our country's fundamental ideals."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Geithner's rah-rah boosterism for TARP becoming less convincing each month as banks aren't lending

Each month, U.S. Treasury Timothy Geithner goes up to Capitol Hill to try and cheer up lawmakers that the TARP rescue of America's financial industry that began last fall is working.

Of course, these lawmakers are seeing differently back home in their districts and hearing the same from their constituents.

Geithner's monthly pleading is enough to convince investors not to completely desert financial stocks as they did on Monday. The Dow rose 127 points today.

But the evidence grows, and even Geithner admitted, that this nation's credit markets remain tight. Cash is not flowing into businesses to expand and hire people. Banks simply aren't lending.

And part of the reason is that home loan losses on their books are greater than believed. And so they need all the cash they can have on hand.

That point was stressed by the NYU economist who predicted this economic downturn. And he says we are in for even more bad news on banks and an end to what he calls the suckers' rally on Wall Street. That CNBC's Jim Cramer thinks differently makes Nouriel Roubini''s contentions even more convincing.

He has predicted a Dow 5,000. I believe he is right. Folks, we're not going to be done with bad times for quite a while.

AP reports:

Well-known economist Nouriel Roubini, one of the few experts to foresee the current global crisis, said Tuesday a recent "suckers rally" in stock markets would fade as the U.S. economy continues to wither and the financial system suffers unexpected shocks.

Hopes the world economy will stage a faster recovery this year have fueled a six-week rise in global markets, with major benchmarks on Wall Street and in Asia up more than 20 percent over just six weeks.

But Roubini, a professor at New York University's business school and former adviser at the U.S Treasury Department, was doubtful and predicted markets would test the lows seen in March.

"For people who say there are green shoots, I seen only yellow weeds frankly," Roubini said at a conference in Hong Kong. "It's not a true recovery. It's just a bear-market rally, it's a suckers rally."

That's because the U.S. economy won't grow again until 2010 after contracting by 2 percent this year, he said. Unemployment will hit 11 percent next year and corporate earnings will come in worse-than-expected, he predicted.

Troubles in the financial sector, meanwhile, are far from over and will be worse than many expect. The results of the government's "stress tests" will show even the biggest 19 American banks don't have enough capital to cope with the huge losses they'll inevitably suffer on souring loans.

"The losses are much more than people are predicting and (the banks) have not reserved enough," Roubini said.

"It looks ugly for every one of those 19 banks, let alone the smaller ones," he added. "So it's going to be ugly for the financial system."

Obama's paltry budget cuts give credibility to tea parties; $100 million is far from a good start

The Obama administration is sounding a lot like the Bush administration in its twisting of reality when confronted with an unavoidable truth.

On his blog, ABC News' White House reporter Jake Tapper recounts an exchange between him, an AP reporter and the WH Press Secretary over the minuscule size of the budget cuts the president asked of his Cabinet that morning and the size of the deficit he has created.

The Beltway two-step around the obvious by the press secretary does not provide much credibility to the Obama administration on ever being able to really cut spending and gives more credence to the complaints of Tea Party participants a week ago.

Give the White House Press Corps credit for taking the administration to task for several promises made on the campaign trail but not yet kept in office.

Tapper writes:

I interjected in an exchange between White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and another reporter today, so I've included their exchange (with my interruption) as well as my own.

JENNIFER LOVEN, AP: The $100 million target figure that the president talked about today with the Cabinet, can you explain why so small? I know he talked about -- you know, you add up 100 million and 100 million, and eventually, you get somewhere, but it would take an awfully long time to add up hundred million (inaudible) in the deficit. Why not target a bigger number?

GIBBS: (Smiling) Well, I think only in Washington, D.C. is a hundred million dollars...

LOVEN: The deficit's very large. It's not a joke.

GIBBS: No, I'm...

LOVEN: The deficit's giant. $100 million really is only a step.

GIBBS: But no joke.

LOVEN: You sound like you're joking about it, but it's not funny.

GIBBS: I'm not making jokes about it. I'm being completely sincere that only in Washington, D.C. is $100 million not a lot of money. It is where I'm from. It is where I grew up. And I think it is for hundreds of millions of Americans.

LOVEN: The point is it's not a very big portion of the deficit.

TAPPER: You were talking about an appropriations bill a few weeks ago about $8 billion being minuscule -- $8 billion in earmarks. We were talking about that and you said that that...

GIBBS: Well, in terms of -- in...(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: ...$100 million is a lot but $8 billion is small?

GIBBS: Well, what I'm saying is I think it all adds up just as the president said, just as Jennifer was good enough to do in her question. If you think we're going to get rid of $1.3 trillion deficit by eliminating one thing, I'd be -- and the administration would be innumerably happy for you to let us know what that is.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Changes in Atlanta Journal-Constitution's editorial board reflect industry recognition that its values should reflect public's, even in the South

The massive change in the composition and direction of the editorial board for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reflects recognition by the newspaper that it is indeed located in the South.

And the values in its positions on issues should at least try more often to reflect that of the region -- not a sense of Beltway elitism and entitlement.

Gone to Washington, D.C., where she fits in much more, is editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker. She was as much a celebrity as an opinion writer, albeit a very good one. Washington will suit her well to make the rounds of all the Sunday morning TV talk shows as an AJC columnist, not an opinion setter.

A couple of other editorial board members were jettisoned. And the newspaper's editor has said that the newspaper will focus on local issues more, not the hot button ones of abortion, the Supreme Court, etc.

Local is why people buy newspapers in the first place. The AJC was never a paper of record as The New York Times. But more, editorial boards such as that of the AJC and The Tennessean have defied area values on so many issues that did not even pretend to seek some common ground.

And matters of faith and devotion to the military and its service were infrequently addressed, let alone championed. While extolling First Amendment rights of free speech, the boards looked down their noses at just as precious Second Amendment rights and the right to bear arms.

But the marketplace changed, and readers found their values reflected more on the Internet, where issues were discussed and vetted.

Yes, there are times that an editorial board must defy local values, or perhaps the perception that the loudest are speaking for the majority. Boards must provide community leadership. The Civil Rights' history of AJC publisher Ralph McGill is a proud legacy for American journalism.

But too often, editorial boards come off as simply sticking their thumbs in the eyes of readers just because they can and their words are printed on paper and distributed to hundreds of thousands of households.

Yet its members are not seen in the community, nor is their availability advertised. Their work is not signed. The precept of holding them above the fray no longer is credible. The real world demands experience, knowing what people are feeling and living on the issues of the day and issues the board does not even know about.

Picking up the morning newspaper while members sit around a large table to discuss what's inside is NO way for an editorial board to operate anymore.

I've seen it firsthand. I've been on two editorial boards in my career.

The AJC's change simply reflects a business decision to try and keep the readers it still has, who happen to live in the South. The newspaper has realized or surrendered to the idea that Southern values are not bad values.

But better, its decision orders its editorial board members to finally come down from their Ivory Tower and engage the populace below -- instead of taking satisfaction in looking down on them.

Moody's says it may downgrade Gannett debt deeper into 'junk' status; more cuts needed to keep from violating lending pacts with debtors

Moody's Investors Service says that Gannett Co. Inc., owner of The Tennessean, has a big problem.

Its declining earnings are not going to be enough to pay off its debtors. Because of that, Moody's is downgrading its rating on the debt of the company and its ability to pay creditors without further action.

Such a rating tells buyers and holders of the company's debt that a company's ability to pay its debt is sinking further into trouble. And then a nasty word called "default" starts being thrown around in some circles.

That's why Gannett stock dropped a whopping 65 cents by 2 p.m. EDT. That's a whale of a drop considering the stock is only worth about $3 a share.

HOWEVER, Moody's believes Gannett will be able to meets its debt obligations with cash flow and further cost reductions.

Further costs reductions means you -- if you still subscribe or advertise with Gannett newspapers -- will be getting even less of a quality product.

AP reports:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Moody's Investors Service said Monday it may downgrade the ratings on newspaper publisher Gannett Co. Inc.'s debt further into "junk" status.

Moody's placed on review for possible downgrade the company's "Ba1" corporate family rating, "Ba1" probability of default rating and "Ba2" senior unsecured note ratings. All ratings are considered speculative grade.

The review stems from Moody's expectations for continued decline in advertising revenue, which will pressure the company's earnings going forward. Gannett, the publisher of USA Today and other titles, may be required to amend certain debt-to-earnings covenants in its bank credit facilities by the end of the year, Moody's said, to avoid a covenant violation.

Moody's said the company's free cash flow and cost reduction efforts should help it obtain an amendment to its loans.

Late last week, the McLean, Va.-based company reported a 60 percent drop in first-quarter profit as advertising revenue plunged. But results came in just slightly above analysts' expectations.

Gannett also pledged to use most of its cash flow to pay down debt, which stood at $3.7 billion at the end of March. The company's next big repayment, of $500 million, isn't due until 2011.

Moody's said about $1.56 billion in debt is affected by its action.

Newspaper publishers have been suffering from a sharp drop in advertising revenue, as the recession takes its toll on companies' budgets and more and more advertisers move to the Internet. Five other U.S. newspaper publishers have been driven into bankruptcy protection since December.

Credit markets worsening, says BoA chief; investors flee for safety as Dow falls 200 points

Even though Bank of America reported a nearly $3 billion profit for the first quarter, its CEO scared the hell out of the financial markets today by saying credit markets will worsen with many more bad loans mounting.

Troubled loans, or nonperforming assets for BoA, increased to $25.7 billion from $7.8 billion a year ago.

The Dow was down more than 200 points by midday, and a new group of analysts are starting to speak out that the current Bear market rally does not have the economic data to sustain it. One analyst said the coming fall in the value of equities will be more severe due to the current run up.

Easy come. Easy go.

Investors are starting to believe that the banks cannot sustain their first quarter profitability as the other shoe is going to drop in their home lending portfolios with ARMs coming due in giant housing markets such as California.

Credit markets are not going to thaw or will simply refreeze. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has picked a hell of a time to try to sell a $600 million convention center project in the credit markets.

AP reports:

Bank of America warned of worsening loan default problems Monday even as it posted a first-quarter profit of $2.81 billion.

Investors concerned about the banking industry's health sent financial stocks and the overall market sharply lower.

Although Bank of America said higher revenue from the purchase of Merrill Lynch helped offset a surge in credit costs, it took a hefty $13.4 billion provision for credit losses during the first three months of the year.

The bank's stock [BAC 8.78 -1.82 (-17.17%) ] fell sharply as the overall stock market slid.

Although last week Wall Street was happy with better-than-expected results from JPMorgan Chase [JPM 31.37 -1.89 (-5.68%) ], Goldman Sachs Group [GS 118.64 -1.96 (-1.63%) ] and Citigroup [C 3.06 -0.59 (-16.16%) ], banking companies generally benefited during the quarter from unusually strong bond trading, a trend not expected to continue while loan problems persist.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America reported a similar performance during the first quarter.

"Like it or not, capital markets is now a core business for Bank of America, and that has more volatile returns than other businesses," said Celent banking analyst Bart Narter. "Bank of America is no longer exclusively a retail bank and there can be more fluctuations."

Bank of America earned $2.81 billion after paying preferred dividends, or 44 cents per share, compared with a profit of $1.02 billion, 23 cents per share, in the year ago period. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected profit of 4 cents per share.

Troubled loans, or nonperforming assets, increased to $25.7 billion from $7.8 billion a year ago. The bank also lost $1.8 billion on card services, after posting a profit a year ago.

"Credit is bad and we believe credit is going to get worse before it will eventually stabilize and improve." Lewis said during a conference call with analysts, noting that the bank continues to face challenges. "Whether that turn is later this year or in the first half of 2010, I'm not going to hazard a guess."

In his salute to his columnists, The Carpetbagger editor fails to mention that his writers simply promote the same Chamber of Commerce line

Running out of anything substantial to write about, The Carpetbagger editor of The Tennessean wrote yesterday about staff members who write -- columnists.

In his testimonial to them, Mark Silverman forgot to mention some important points -- all must follow the Chamber of Commerce line in positions taken. No rocking the boat, please. And don't say anything bad about Gov. Bredesen. He's always right because has a lot of money.

And there was no more sickening proof of these rules yesterday than Gail Kerr's column promoting the building of a $600 million convention center in the midst of a recession and budget cuts affecting police.

Kerr's point was that many of the skeptical folks in Nashville have always said no to projects that turned out great for the city. She cited the Parthenon, the Ryman and Bud Adams wanting to go the Super Bowl.

Wow, what a list!

But it was obvious from her writing that the financial considerations of such a project such as the convention center are beyond her. And entering the Muni bond market while credit markets still are mostly frozen will demand more from any annual bond payments the hotel/motel tax can cover. That leaves it to taxpayers locally to cover the difference -- as always.

Ironically, Kerr was the lead reporter on the Titans coming to Nashville and even got to go and sit in Bud Adams' office in Houston. That certainly would leave me emotional. But all the promotional work by all involved was based on a gross misrepresentation: that the Titans deal would not cost taxpayers a thing.

I arrived after the deal had been sealed. And then editor Frank Sutherland confronted me in the newsroom on a column I was writing about the actual cost of the deal. He repeated the line that deal would not cost taxpayers a thing.

After hearing Sutherland's loud protestation, the new city hall reporter, Mark Ippolito,, came over and told Sutherland in front of a lot of people that he was wrong.

First, taxpayers were being soaked for $56 million they had overpaid in water bills.

Second, each year's budget would first have to pay $4 million in bond payments on the financial vehicle used to the build the stadium.

Later, taxpayers found out that they had to pay another $1 million a year for maintenance on a stadium they technically owned but Adams controlled.

And now Adams has the right to call in $177 million in improvements on a stadium that is growing quite old by NFL standards. I wonder who is going to pay for all those improvements?

Kerr never has been able to recognize these things. Her purpose is to serve as a Chamber rah-rah writer. You'll notice in her column that she didn't mention other big projects that a lot of skeptics did not like and rightly so. These big deal have turned into money losers:

Americans Airlines,
Dell Computer,
The Arena,
The Predators deal.

Tennessean investigative reporter Shelia Wissner even proved the Dell deal would be a loser for taxpayers, but the newspaper still endorsed it. The Chamber rules.

Nashvillians have a right to be skeptical. And a $600 million convention deal while its public schools have failed and tent cities are rising around the area and police numbers may be cut is the very definition of greed to benefit the few at the expense of the many.

Unfortunately, this city doesn't have a columnist to say these things and present the full history of the bad deals in this city that should have been turned down.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Here's why newspapers lost to Google in making the Web proftable; too much greed to invest

Alan D. Mutter, now a Silicon Valley CEO but formerly a big-time newsman in Chicago and San Francisco, has some words for newspaper publishers and editors grumbling about how Google took away so much of their revenue and credibility.

Get over it. You had many chances and blew it.

From my point of view, newspapers in general -- with some notable exceptions -- were never willing to make the big investment in the new technology in the beginning ... and even now. That's because the industry was tied to unrealistic profit rates. And that greed has now killed the industry.

For instance, the web sites for Gannett Co., Inc. and The Tennessean are slow and cumbersome in a time that readers want news fast and easy to find. Gannett has never been willing to make the needed investment, because the profit margins at its newspapers have been so demanding.

Below, Mutter shows the opportunities missed by an industry over the past one and a half decades. Now, it suffers for its greed and finds itself on the verge of extinction in the print form:

:: Several newspapers launched their first websites by the time Larry Page and Sergey Brin met at Stanford University in 1995 and started noodling on a research project called BackRub.

:: Two or three years before the first public peek of the still-nascent Google in 1998, the ill-fated and short-lived New Century Network had a plan to aggregate the content from 140 newspapers in searchable format for the web. The plan, which included the idea of inserting ads in selected markets at the push of a button, died when NCN succumbed to industry infighting.

:: It was not until October, 2000 – a good five years after most newspapers were up and running on the web – that Google figured out how to make money off its spectacularly growing traffic by selling keyword advertising.

As Google and many other savvy online publishers learned how to capitalize on the openness and interactivity of the Internet, newspaper publishers stubbornly spent the last 1½ decades trying to sustain their once-enviable print business model in the face of overwhelming evidence that everything was changing: technology, consumer patterns and advertiser behavior.

For an excellent example of the sort of opportunities missed by the industry, look no further than this tale of how the Boston Globe blew the chance in 1995 to buy a significant share of Monster.Com for a comparatively modest $1 million.

Or, ask yourself why Dow Jones, the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, never started its own online stock site. Instead, Dow Jones waited until 2004 and spent $520 million to buy MarketWatch, faithfully printing stock listings in the newspaper all the while.

Today, print advertising has fallen off a cliff because consumers find it faster, easier, more timely and more fun to get their news online. Advertisers increasingly are gravitating to online media instead of print, because it is cheaper, highly targetable and the results can be readily measured and analyzed.

None of this is Google’s fault. Blaming Google won’t help.

Obama pledging budget cuts beginning Monday

Perhaps feeling the heat from last week's tea party protests across the nation, President Obama has pledged to begin program cuts tomorrow across all Cabinet departments.

The WSJ reports from the Summit of the Americas:

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad -- President Barack Obama promised Saturday to eliminate dozens of government programs that have been shown to be "wasteful or ineffective" and said he will call on his cabinet to hunt their budgets for more.

"There will be no sacred cows, and no pet projects. All across America, families are making hard choices, and it's time their government did the same," Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio and video address.

He said that on Monday, at his first, full cabinet meeting, he will ask all agency heads for specific budget cut proposals. He cited efforts under way at the Pentagon to reform contracting procedures and kill hundreds of billions of dollars in "wasteful spending and cost overruns." He also pointed to a decision to end a Department of Homeland Security consulting contract to create new seals and logos that has cost $3 million since 2003.

He said that in the coming weeks, he will announce dozens more programs to be eliminated.

"We need to restore the American people's confidence in their government -- that it is on their side, spending their money wisely, to meet their families' needs," the president said.

Why is the Left so angry? A Washington Post reporter wants to know what's up with liberals

With all the anti-tax or anti-spending tea parties of the past week, the political Right gets portrayed as being angry and irrational.

But a fascinating piece was written today by The Washington Post's White House reporter Dana Milbank on the venom coming from liberal readers.

It seems we have reached such extremes in this country in our thinking, which is a carry over from the Bush years and perhaps aggravated by the Great Recession. The New York Times reports today in an analysis piece that some folks on the Left are angry at the president for not taking hard stands to bring change to Washington.

I do not know if there is a Great Silent Majority as Richard Nixon claimed during Vietnam when it comes to public opinion. There wasn't an Internet back then.

But the polarization in this nation is most unfortunate at a time when it will take extraordinary consensus on some major issues to turn this nation around.

I had my share of readers from the extremes of political thought aiming their words at me when I was a political columnist for The Tennessean, Hispanic magazine and now on this blog.

It seems people want to label you as a writer, that way they can dismiss all your thoughts as "O, you're so right wing" or "that's just more bleeding heart liberal stuff".

In my writing, I take the issue and people involved in it, just like most Americans do. I value personal experience over ideology in taking a position. And I try and pray and listen to God and his wisdom.

Anger is too commonplace now. We need more time to think about what we're saying and writing. We are in unprecedented economic times in this nation and around this world.

Think about it. Pray about it. Then join the marketplace of ideas with words well chosen. And leave the labels at home.

Milbank writes:

Dear Reader:

I wish to apologize to you for my behavior last week.

On Tuesday, I learned that I am a right-wing hack. I am not a journalist. I am typical of the right wing. I am why newspapers are going broke. I write garbage. I am angry with Barack Obama. I misquote Obama. I am bitter. I am a certified idiot. I am lame. I am a Republican flack.

On Thursday, I realized that I am a media pimp with my lips on Obama's butt. I am a bleeding-heart liberal who wants nothing more than for the right to fall on its face. I am part of the ObamaMedia. I am pimping for the left. I am carrying water for Obama. Lord, am I an idiot.

I discovered all this from the helpful feedback provided to me in the "reader comments" section at the end of my past four columns on I undertook this exercise on the advice of former editor Doug Feaver, who wrote on these pages recently that journalists need to take the comments seriously ["Listening to the Dot-Comments," op-ed, April 9]. Further, he added in his blog, "those who don't are making a mistake."

Now, I may be a pimp and an idiot -- but I did not want to make a mistake. So I reviewed all 1,800 comments posted on my columns over the course of a week. As a sociological experiment, it was fascinating.

The comments are naturally an unscientific indicator, but the impression I got is consistent with what I've heard from colleagues: The vitriol of last year's presidential campaign has outlasted the election. For the right, this isn't terribly surprising; their guys lost the White House in 2008 and control of both chambers of Congress in 2006, so lashing out in frustration is to be expected. The left, however, is more difficult to explain. It made sense for them to be angry when George W. Bush was in the White House. But now, even under Obama, the anger on the left is, if anything, more personal and vitriolic than on the right.

A reader in an online chat brought this to my attention a couple of months ago, noting the animosity in the comments following a column. "Did you torture their cats and grandmothers? Most of the truly unhinged comments appear to come from Democrats, who apparently think you're Cindy McCain in reverse drag."

I replied that, to keep my blood pressure under control, I don't read the comments, and that I did, in fact, torture their cats.

Well, last week I read the comments. On April 10, I wrote a column about an Obama appearance urging Americans to refinance their mortgages -- a fairly gentle piece pointing out that the president sounded like a pitchman. The comments compared me to Bernard Goldberg and Glenn Beck. One complained that "I gave Bush and the Republicans a pass."

Actually, a National Review column called me "the most anti-Bush reporter" in the White House press corps, but never mind that. "Uh oh, Milbank," wrote commenter "farfalle44." "Now the Obamabots have labeled you an Obama hater -- watch out!"

For Thursday's column, I criticized the "tea party" outside the White House. Conservatives left hundreds of indignant comments -- I was an Obama "lap dog" and "licking Obama's shoes" -- but that didn't buy me credibility with the left. "You do a real good job of attracting all the ill-informed, mathematically challenged, left-wing haters," said one reader. "I bet ya mom's really proud!"

So why is the left so angry? I don't know (I'm an idiot), so I put the question to the readers in my weekly online chat on Friday.

A reader from Rockville described it as a "sore winner" phenomenon. "People get used to being angry and when things change, they don't. So they find stuff to be mad about." Another said that some on the left "feel obligated to stay in the fight" because of the harsh treatment of Obama by the right.

But many focused on a frustration on the left caused by Obama's centrism -- his opposition to prosecuting those involved with torture, for example. "I am angry because the whole Republican party has not been rounded up and thrown into a black site," one wrote. A reader in Evanston, Ill., took a similar view, that true believers on the left don't want "b.s. rhetoric about looking forward." Okay, but why wouldn't this be directed at Obama? Readers explained that some of it is. But, "if we yell obscenities at Obama," replied a reader in Dunnellon, Fla., "we get a visit from the Secret Service. Yelling them at you is worry-free."

So the angry left should thank me: I'm taking one for the team.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The doctors may be largest impediment to real health care reform to preserve American families

I've had three conversations this week about health care reform to finally do something about reducing the astronomical cost of coverage that simply continues to rise and bankrupt American households.

One conversation was with hospital medical specialist, who supports universal health care. I noted that the new economy will demand universal coverage since new jobs created will probably be contract ones without benefits of any kind. And people are not going to be able to afford coverage on their own, particularly if they have a pre-existing condition.

The doctor said that any reform must be brought about by equal sacrifice from doctors, insurance companies and hospitals. And he says that won't ever happen. The greed is too engrained.

Today I was talking over lunch with an auditor for one of the largest health care- providing companies in the nation. This person knows where all the waste and overspending is. And this person sees more doctors dropping patients tied to Medicare because of the slow and low reimbursement rates.

So where are these people to go just because caring for them by doctors is not profitable enough?

The final conversation comes in a note from a former professor and dear father-figure:

Tim, we hear a lot about health insurance, but that alone is not the solution to the medical care crisis in this country. I have two health insurance plans and yet the out-of-pocket costs for my wife and me totals more each year that all our other living costs combined. Such costs have plunged many into bankruptcy and home loss. The greed I see among health care professionals is enough to sicken one. Also, the insurance premiums alone are staggering for most people.

Something has to give

So it looks like this cause has to first center its focus and passion on the health care professional, who are manipulating the system for treatments and other tasks that are running up the bills for American households.

That's fine with me. I just want to get started -- now. Let's go, Mr. President, and take on the AMA!