Friday, February 25, 2005

What is it with Republicans and secret tapes?

There's always a tape, isn't there?

Here's a tip for our red state friends ... stay off the phone with your pals. Doug Wead, a former aide to George I, has about 9 hours of recordings of him shooting the bull with George II while he was running for president, some of it embarassing, most not.

Now he says he should give the tapes to Bush. What a pal. I don't think he'll be giving the proceeds of his book to him though.

Bush apparently admits to past drug use (yawn). Sometimes I really miss Clinton.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Social Security Scam

Dubyah has his (our) American Express card out again. This time he wants to "fix" the Social Security System.

Digging an even deeper hole of debt so as to create personal investment accounts for younger workers, Bush is claiming to stablize a system that is "going bankrupt." It's not so much what he says about it, but rather what he doesn't say that I find most persuasive. Things like "Standing to my left is the Executive Director of the Society of Actuaries and to my right is the President of the American Academy of Actuaries and they both stand behind this proposal."

Or ... "Here is a letter from ..."
or "According to ..."

Nope ... nothing. Why? Because despite the Texas two-step that allows Bush to stand at his podium, banging his fist and taunting "Just look at the math!" the simple and elegant truth is, the actuaries who advise the administration have told him that they system needs only minor adjustment to remain solvent. The "problem" that Bush is so anxious to fix threatens only to reduce benefits -- bankruptcy is simply not in the picture.

It's so simple, YOU can do it. Just go the American Academy of Actuaries' web site and play "The Social Security Game." I don't want to ruin the game for you, but if you raise the retirement age to 70 (more than reasonable from someone who can expect to live to 80) and introduce means testing so that those whose retirement income is over $50,000 will receive a reduced benefit, you'll have fixed it. Period.

The argument against later retirement almost always falls completely onto the issue of fairness for workers whose jobs are physically demanding. Somehow having a 64 and a half year-old woman stocking shelves is okay, but if she's 69, we're horrified. Jack Nicholson and Jane Fonda will be 68 this year. Should we pull out the wheelchair now? How about Goldie Hawn? She'll be 60. Not only should they keep working, they should not receive the same social security benefit as someone who made $20,000 in the most prosperous year of his or her life.

For those retiring in in 2042, my response is two-fold. First, when you're that age and have been doing physical work (including waiting tables) your body is probably in better shape than that of your counterpart who's sitting at a computer. He's the one more likely to get sicker and die sooner.

If I had known I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself.
Lesson for young workers: You will and you should.

If the federal government really wants to to those young workers and their young kids a living-longer-living-better favor that will pay off in 2042, they should put the freakin' money back into physical education and nutritious school lunches.

In 40 years, the trends in our economy toward service over physically produced products will have advanced even further. We not only don't know anything about what we will look like in terms of our health, we have NO idea what our grandchildren will be doing for a living or what we will be retiring FROM. When I left high school (less than 30 years ago) there was no teacher or guidance counselor who could have told me that my livelihood would come from providing communications consulting and services via the Internet, that my largest clients would be thousands of miles away and that this would be practical because I could talk to them every day on the phone for an unlimited time without spending any more on my phone bill.

If the president were a little more on the ball about America's working and online life, he would have a healthier respect for how unknowable these questions are. Heck, when he first ran for president in 2000, nobody knew what the heck a BLOG was ... yet in 2004 blogs played a significant role in the election.

Finally, we should realize that our view of work and its meaning is changing. For many, the continuation of meaningful work means the continuation of a high quality of life. What's the hurry to end that?

Monday, February 14, 2005

You're blogged

The Sarcastic Journalist was indeed fired a year ago, so it's the old guard at the Herald-Spun with whom I agreed.

It is a curiosity that some seem to think that the lines of code that produced the blogging product have somehow staked out new first amendment ground or are the basis for declaring some form of special worker's rights. That's silly. It's publishing, that's all. The "great unwashed" have always been able to publish and experience immediate regret. Remember Jerry Maguire's "Mission Statement"?

What's different now is the cost (none) and the push-the-button-and-the-whole-world-can-see-it aspect --- literally. It's the distribution. That's what makes it so powerful and will quickly re-establish the role of journalism as well. Without some form of filtering, gatekeeping or sorting, all the blogs will quickly become of fog of chatter. Raw data only becomes information in the hands of a capable programmer. At least all those photocopies cost Jerry some money, plus all the effort to hand them all out. For many, that would mean that they'd have to really believe in something to part with the cash, time and effort. What would Jerry have done with a blog?!

So perhaps the question on the minds of publishers is whether or not blogging can "show them the money?"

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Blocking bloggers

Herald-Sun staff is canned for bashing management on her blog. No news there. No employer should be expected to tolerate their own staff disparaging them publicly. That's right ... on this one, I agree with the Kentucky greedmongers.

I read that at the recent Triangle Blogging Conference one attendee advised bloggers to "write as though no one was looking." I don't get it ... does he want someone to get sued?

As much as we hate the struggle with editors in the conventional writing environment, they protect the writer and the publication from libelous actions and repercussions.

Do bloggers think they cannot get sued for libel because they omit their true identity from the blog?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Fake News

No, I don't mean The Daily Show, Comedy Central's excellent spoof that unsparingly bashes the media as much or more than it does politicians. The fake news I'm talking about is brought to you by the Bush Administration, now caught in FIVE episodes of egregious propaganda dissemination. This case in point is the departure of phony journalist "Jeff Gannon" (not his real name - clue #1) who was tossing softballs to the president recently and to Press Secretary Scott McClellan routinely.

Previous cases include release fake B-roll video of fictional "news" segments (that made air in several particularly lazy markets) and the purchase, lock, stock & barrel of three columnists. Bush was "shocked" to learn about the purchase of Armstrong Williams, but that dismay rings more and more hollow as the additional incidents are tallied.

"Jeff Gannon" says that he's resigned his position as White House reporter for "Talon News" because of his concern for his family. Yah. Okay.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

SROs should be county/state budget item

This morning's Chapel Hill (Paxton-$un) Herald editorial position is that School Resource Officers should be paid for by the schools (as opposed to the county or the state) because "the work they do is determined by the schools and is for the schools."


They work within the chain of command in their respective law enforcement units. The fact that they coordinate their protective services with the population they are working with is no different than a beat cop working with the Chapel Hill Herald on Mallette Street. If the staff has heard about possible vandalism directed at the Herald, they work with the police to drive by a little more often, they tell them about special activities on the weekends -- they work together to prevent crime.

These cops aren't security guards. They're cops. They protect a specialized population, so they have special training, but they are cops, period. Funding the police is the entire community's responsibility and the Town of Chapel Hill in particular should hang its head in shame for running away from this important need for the safety of students AND STAFF in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School district.