Saturday, April 22, 2006


Hilton screws hundreds of soldiers in DC

There are a lot of people who say "I support the troops," put a yellow ribbon on their car, or hang a star in their window. The owners and staff of Fran O'Brien's Steak House have gone WAY beyond the call when it comes to showing their support. You need to read this.

Since October of 2003 Marty O'Brien and Hal Koster have been providing a free "Friday Night out on the Town" at Fran O'Briens Stadium Steak House for thousands of severely injured soldiers and marines who are recuperating at nearby Walter Reed Army Hospital and Bethesda Naval Medical Center. Hal, a Vietnam vet, and his partner Marty, have made it a policy that they will continue to do this ... UNTIL THE LAST SOLDIER WOUNDED IN THIS CONFLICT HAS GONE HOME FROM WALTER REED AND BETHESDA.

That is stunning. What is even more stunning is how their landlord, Hilton Hotel Corp. of Beverly Hills, California, is responding to this. Hilton Hotel Corporation served Fran O'Brien's with an eviction notice. Why? Hilton doesn't want to spend the money to provide equal access for disabled people. That’s just the beginning…..

When I first read about this, I wrote a letter to Thomas Keltner, Vice President of Branding Performance for Hilton Hotel Corp. and Jeff Diskin, Senior Vice President for Brand Management & Marketing. I received a polite, but unresponsive form letter in return. That is when I called Hal Koster to get the facts of the situation. What he told me is outrageous.

This complementary dinner is an elaborate affair with an open bar, accompanied by a full steak dinner with all the trimmings including desert. After dinner comfort packages are provided to each of the soldiers and full steak dinners are provided for other soldiers and family members back at the hospital who couldn't make it that night. All of this at absolutely no cost to the soldiers or their families or invited staff. This has been going on each Friday now for two and a half years!

Soldiers, family members, hospital staff, their doctors and nurses and some of the most senior staff physicians at both hospitals have spoken out about the therapeutic value these nights offer as part of the soldier's recovery. I also spoke with Margaret, the banquet director at Fran O'Brien's, and she told me the staff have all gotten special training to deal with the kind of disabilities they are seeing.

Let's be real frank here. When someone missing part of their jaw orders a steak, you need to prepare it especially for them, or they can’t eat it. The chef at Fran O'Brien's knows how to puree it so it tastes great and they can actually enjoy it. Talking with Margaret, the banquet director at Fran’s, it was really clear this isn’t about free steaks and beer. It’s much more than that. It's about treating these men and women with respect. It's about helping them get more than a good meal. It's about helping them get some dignity. "I've been working here for a long time. We're all like family here. When someone missing their lower jaw finally gets to enjoy a steak, we all cry," she explained.

Here’s the situation: Fran O'Brien's is downstairs at the Capitol Hilton. That's an important point. We all know there is a Federal law called the Americans with Disabilities Act. The bottom line on that piece of legislation is "equal access" for people with disabilities. That's why we have handicapped parking. That's why we have bathroom stalls with handrails. That is why a lot of things are done. Not because it's nice. They're done because it's the law. If you have a flight of stairs leading to your restaurant, you must have "equal access" available for handicapped patrons. It's not an option.

Here's the outrageous part: There is an escalator that leads down to Fran O'Brien's. IT HAS BEEN BROKEN SINCE 1998! Hal and Marty have been fighting with Hilton to get that repaired for SIX YEARS! Hilton has never done it. Instead, after a few years of promising to do it, sending in engineers, etc. Hilton BOARDED UP THE ESCALATOR. As part of their lease negotiations, the owners asked Hilton to consider putting in a lift for the disabled vets in wheelchairs. That was when they got the eviction notice.

At this point, you are probably wondering how in the world does a disabled person get into the restaurant now? If you need to use a disabled entrance this is how you get to Fran O'Brien's:

1) You have to go to the lobby of the Capitol Hilton.
2) Then you have to go to the security desk.
3) Then you have to be escorted by the security guard on duty to a coat room.
4) The security guard punches in a code on the key pad and escorts you through the coat room.
5) Then he takes you to "the back of the house," as they call the service area in hotels.
6) Then they escort you to the lift and take you down to the basement.
7) When you get to the bottom, someone from the restaurant has to meet you and then escort you to the restaurant at the other end of the building.

Now you can eat.

A) When you finish your meal, someone from the restaurant has to contact the security desk.
B) Then they have to escort you to the elevator.
C) Then they have to wait until someone from security arrives.
D) Then the person from the security desk escorts you back up to the main floor.
E) Then they take you back through the coat room, again keying in the security codes.

Now you can leave.

It's clear "equal access" means something radically different to Hilton Hotel Corp than it would to any sane individual. Here's a simple question: What happens if there is a fire?

Here’s how you can help:
If we are going to help them continue to help others, we need to generate national awareness so Hilton Hotels feels it in the only place that matters, their wallet. Marty and Hal have not gone public with this earlier because they didn’t want to screw up the already complicated lease negotiations. Now that they have an eviction notice, they have nothing left to lose.

Let me be crystal clear here. As a small business owner, I am not in the business of telling other people how to run their business. The only people who do that don't have a business of their own. If Hilton Hotels wants to sully the Hilton brand name the way Paris Hilton has sullied the Hilton family name, that's their choice. However, choices come with consequences.

I know of military groups that have already cancelled events at Hilton properties in Texas and elsewhere. It is time to support our troops and get the word out to a broader audience. It is time to boycott the following hotel chains:

Conrad Hotels
Embassy Suites
Hampton Inn
Hampton Inn & Suites
Hilton Garden Inn
Homewood Suites

Another way to show support
People who do travel to pick up the stationary from their hotel room and write a letter to Hilton corporate headquarters, the local newspapers, TV and radio stations saying:

"I'm sending you this note from [non Hilton property] to let you know I think the way Hilton Hotel Corp. is treating the people and patrons at Fran O'Brien's Steak House in Washington DC is wrong. I chose to stay at [non Hilton property] because I support our troops. I simply can't get a good night's sleep at a Hilton property as long as they turn their back on severely wounded soldiers."

Mail it to:
Thomas Keltner,
Executive Vice President,
Hilton Hotel Corporation,
9336 Civic Center Drive
Beverly Hills, California 90210

FAX: 310-205-4599

Share the Pain
There is no reason Paris Hilton should be getting a free Bentley while Hilton Hotels denies wounded vets the courtesy of a decent meal. I think we need to be creative about spreading the economic impact of this boycott to all commercial ventures associated with the Hilton Family.

The Mission Statement on the Hilton Web site is:
To be the first choice of the world's travelers

Our Mission Statement needs to be equally clear:
To show Hilton that bad choices have bad consequences.


Operation Perish Hilton

This is not a question of Right v. Left, but Right v. Wrong

The Mission Statement on the Hilton Web site is:
To be the first choice of the world's travelers.

Our Mission Statement needs to be equally clear:
To show Hilton that bad choices have bad consequences.

For too long we have allowed those who profit from us to divide us. Our airwaves and public squares are filled with an incessant barrage of hateful, divisive, and misleading messages. They poison our minds and steal our souls. If they can't scare us into submission, they co-opt us with false promises. They turn us against ourselves. They want to reduce me to a number? Fine. My number is 720... what's your's brother?

Now is the time to take a stand. It's time to do something concrete. Time to regain what is rightfully ours-- our heritage and our nation. I cannot improve upon Lincoln's message from his first inaugural -- let it be your guide.
"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

The example set by the owners and staff of Fran O'Brien's Steak House has moved everyone who hears of it. That is the establishment in Washington DC where every Friday Night soldiers and marines recuperating from serious wounds at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval are treated to a free steak dinner with all the trimmings. If you want more information, go here after you finish reading the material below.

The reason you are here is you know these fine men and women, who have given so much to so many are being evicted by the landlord Hilton Hotel Corporation. People all across the political spectrum have embraced the cause of Marty O'Brien, Hal Koster, and the men and women who graciously donate their time to serve these fine young men and women.

We all support our troops because they are our brothers, our sisters, our sons, our daughters, our fathers, our brothers, our neighbors, and our friends. They do not belong to the government, to any political party, or to any class. They were not given away, they were provided on a temporary basis as a precious gift. Many have now been returned to us damaged and broken. Those who willingly took them are happy to abandon them, to return them to us so they will not be burdened in their pursuit of fresh fodder.

But the better angels of our nature, personified by the men and women at Fran O'brien's do not go quietly into the night. They stand and deliver. They open their hearts and their wallets to provide aid and comfort to those who have given so much for us. Now is the time to pick a side and stand on the side of the angels.

STEP ONE: Every journey begins with a single step. If you are from the left, go to the blogs on the right where they have embraced this cause and post your appreciation. If you are from the right, go to the blogs on the left and post your appreciation. Semper Fi does not mean "always faithful" to a party, a class or a clique. It is a pledge of fealty to one another and the Constitution which binds us. If we do not take the opportunity to reach out to those who share our values, the people (and corporations are people as far as the laws are concerned) who profit from dividing us will continue to rape us. The list is below. If I missed someone, drop me a line at and I will include them.


STEP TWO: If you travel, pick up the stationary from their hotel room and write a letter to Hilton corporate headquarters, the local newspapers, TV and radio stations saying:

"I'm sending you this note from [non Hilton property] to let you know I think the way Hilton Hotel Corp. is treating the people and patrons at Fran O'Brien's Steak House in Washington DC is wrong.  I chose to stay at [non Hilton property] because I support our troops.  I simply can't get a good night's sleep at a Hilton property as long as they turn their back on severely wounded soldiers."

Mail it to:
Thomas Keltner,
Executive Vice President,
Hilton Hotel Corporation,
9336 Civic Center Drive
Beverly Hills, California 90210

FAX: 310-205-4599


SETP THREE: Show some initiative. What can you do to heal the wounds? I cannot improve upon Lincoln's words from the second inaugural, let them be your motivation:

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."


Blogs supporting our troops and the good people of Fran O'Brien's:

Sign the Petition. If you haven't done it yet, now is the time.
Chris Dickson -- Tip o' the hat for the name: Operation Perish Hilton.
The Jawa Report
Black Five
Andi's World
Mudville Gazette
Proud Army Mom
A Soldier's Dad
Random Thoughts of Yet Another Military Member
Political Cortex
The Daily Kos
Talking Points Memo Cafe
Let's Roll!!!!!

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Mything the Point of "Too Big To Fail"


That concept is as old as Goliath, but a hell of a lot more durable.  The term was popularized about 20 years ago when the Federal Reserve bailed out a Midwestern bank to (the then) unheard of tune of $1 Billion.  Congress was dismayed by this largesse and promptly held hearings.  

Appalled by the apparent socialist stench of this state intervention in private enterprise, the late Congressman McKinney (R-CT) uttered the now famous phrase:

"Mr. Chairman, We have a new kind of bank.  It is called,
"too big to fail," TBTF, and it is a wonderful bank."

You have to admit, the idea of Congress holding hearings to learn why a federal agency bailed out a private business like that is -- to borrow a phrase from Attorney General Gonzales -- quaint.  If a billion dollars of questionable spending was all it took to trigger hearings today, they would be having at least two hearings a week just on Iraq.

Of course, that was pre S&L thinking, before Charles Keating, Neal Bush, Silverado and BCCI became household names.  The federal assistance to Continental Illinois turned out to be pocket change compared to the global damage done by BCCI.   BCCI was huge. It had bought influence in 79 countries. It was financially backed by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi. It was the bank of choice for arms traffickers, drug dealers and the CIA.

The smart money said BCCI was Too Big To Fail.  It failed anyway.  The S&L scandal came and went, the market crashed, came back, crashed again and new Goliaths rose up that were Too Big To Fail.  Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, and Delphi are just a few companies that come to mind.

Here's why I bring all this to your attention: There is a common thread that runs through all the examples cited.  When the end came, it was fast, it was irreversible, and almost everyone was caught by surprise.  There's something else they all have in common.  The signs of impending doom had been plainly visible for anyone to see, but the people who pointed it out were treated like modern-day Cassandras; prophets of doom that no one believed.

A wise philosopher once said, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."  A witty contemporary of his wryly noted, "We learn from history that we learn nothing from history."  All I can say is it's truly ironic we can cite George Bush as proof that both George Santayana and George Bernard Shaw knew what they were talking about.  Even if he never read anything they wrote, and skipped history class altogether, you would think someone with a ringside seat to the spectacular flameouts of Kenny Lay, Neil Bush, Poppy Bush, and Harken Industries might have second thoughts about launching a Crusade based on the premise that America was Too Big To Fail.

It's no surprise someone surrounded by sycophants who sing siren songs of certain success could be seduced into a false sense of security.  In that regard, Bush and Saddam are probably more alike than either would care to admit.  I wouldn't be surprised if Saddam actually thought he had weapons of mass destruction before we invaded, too.  After all, this was a regime that tortured Olympians who didn't bring home gold medals.  Would you want to be the guy to tell Saddam his dream was a joke?    I didn't think so.

Speaking of killing the messenger, Lawrence Lindsay was lucky he worked for Dubya.  He's the guy who made the mistake of telling people before we invaded Iraq that the war might cost as much as $200 Billion.  People said he was wrong and he got fired.  They were right.  The war is going to cost a lot more than that.  By the end of this fiscal year, we are looking at $315 Billion in direct costs, no clue of the indirect costs, and no idea how much longer the war is going to last.

That brings us to the latest in a long string of "emergency" supplemental appropriation bills.  Right now there is a bill working its way to the floor of the Senate like a hungry velociraptor on the loose in Jurassic Park.  Actually, it's more like Mapasaurus, the recently discovered giant meat eater that was even larger than T. Rex. Weighing in at $106 Billion, this is the largest "emergency" appropriation in American history.

It also happens to be the fifth "emergency" appropriation bill submitted to fund the war.  No one knows exactly how this money is going to be used.  We still don't have an honest accounting for the money already spent.  In spite of all that, it's probably going to be approved.  Why?  Because the President says, "failure in Iraq is not an option."  It is obvious the President has never done a Google search on the word "failure."

" Now we turn our attention to war.
In many ways it is the only obstacle to peace."

-- Jon Stewart, keeping it real.


Mything the Point ©:
"Examining unexamined beliefs America accepts on faith value."


Mything the Point of "Freedom isn't Free"


When people start talking like that, I always check to make sure my wallet is safe. It's the kind of platitude people resort to so they can justify the sacrifices they ask others to make.

Let me give you an example. Right now the latest in a series of off-budget-down-payment-without-oversight-emergency-appropriation bills is heading for the Senate floor. The total bill is $106 Billion. This omnibus bill is for Iraq and Katrina relief.   I could understand the need for one "emergency" appropriation, but three years into a campaign that is slated to last indefinitely?   Some might consider that poor planning.   Others might consider it a golden opportunity.   Consider this example from a recent Washington Post article:
Mississippi's two U.S.  senators included $700 million in an emergency war spending bill to relocate a Gulf Coast rail line that has already been rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina at a cost of at least $250 million.

700 MILLION dollars?   If you tried to sell that kind of heist to a TV show, people would say the premise was too far-fetched!  These guys are so bold if anyone complains you can bet money that Lott and his cronies will point out this is pencil shavings compared to the rest of the bill.   What more evidence do you need to demonstrate the whole appropriations process has gone haywire?

You would think this might be big news.   It certainly will have more impact on people than Tom and Katie's baby.   I think the problem is most people simply don't understand large numbers.   Do you know what 106 Billion of anything looks like? If I told you there were 100 Billion stars in our galaxy would that help you visualize it? I didn't think so.   Unfortunately, that makes it real easy for people like Trent Lott to loot the treasury.  

We've been stuck on this treadmill ever since they told us the first supplemental appropriation would go for rebuilding Iraq.   After they got the money, it wound up in the pockets of contractors who claim they spent it on security.   That's like getting money to build a house in a rough neighborhood, and letting the subcontractors spend it on body guards.   They in turn use the body guards to collect more money so you could build the house.   Keep that up and pretty soon you are no longer in the construction business.   You're either running a protection racket, an extortion scheme, or both.

I think it's time we solve the problem of communicating with big numbers so we can handle the really big problems.   When I'm done, the "Pottery Barn Rule" is going to have a whole new meaning for you...  

First, let me explain how the numbers got so big so fast.  Does the term "Total Cost of Ownership" sound familiar?  Like the name implies, TCO is the total cost you pay to own something over the entire lifetime of the product.   For example, if you purchase a laptop for $1,300, the TCO is about $5,200.   That's because the TCO includes the purchase price and things like repairs, maintenance, upgrades, service and support, networking, software licensing, etc.  

The same thing happens when you buy into a war. In other words, the Pottery Barn Rule just got more expensive.   You're not just paying for the item you broke.  You're also paying for the replacement item, lost sales, administrative overhead, transportation costs, and interest on the credit card debt to cover the costs.   Now you know why Colin Powell didn't think it was a good idea to go into Iraq like a bull in a china shop.  

Here's the scary part: We don't know how long this is going to last.   This means we have to rewrite the Pottery Barn Rule one more time.  You aren't just breaking a cup, you are going on a road trip to break a cup in every Pottery Barn in America, and you are responsible for paying all your travel expenses.   Who knew a $4 cup could be so expensive?

What does that mean in the real world? Here is the projected direct cost of war in Iraq that Nobel Prize winning economist John Stiglitz has arrived at based on public record information. He estimates the total cost of war at about $1.3 TRILLION. The interest on that debt alone (~385 $BN) is almost as large as the current deficit. NOTE: Stiglitz is only considering direct government costs in this table.   The indirect costs are substantial.   I'll give you one indirect cost you see on a routine basis: Gas

Gas was $25 a barrel before we invaded Iraq.  Now it is over $70 a barrel.   That is starting to have an effect on electric bills and consumer goods.   If we attack Iran it could easily go to $100 a barrel.   At that point millions of Americans will be deciding between heating and food.   Where's your freedom now?

Before you throw your hands up in despair, here's a ray of hope.   There is something that can be done to slow this runaway train. Let's start with this $106 Billion jackpot.

Everyone running for office needs to take a position on this issue. They need to focus on the earmarks and pork hidden in that appropriations.   They need to make this a local issue and talk about the lost opportunities in our communities.

Incumbents need to fight to knock out pork.   Challengers need to hold incumbents accountable for every penny in that bill.   Count on the pirates to attack with "you don't support our troops!" Fine.   It is time to put a stop to this nonsense by pointing to stuff that has nothing to do with the troops.   For example Trent Lott's movable railroad cited at the top.  I realize we're talking chump change here, but it sends a message....  100 Million here, 100 Million there...  and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

The bottom line:
People who want to represent us need to earn that privilege.  The quickest way to do that is for them to sharpen their pencils and give us a better bill.   If they can't, then let's hire people who will.  

The question this time around is not whether you like or dislike your representative.  The question is can you afford them? Anyone who tries to duck the issue by appealing to abstract values like freedom, security, or the sanctity of human life either doesn't understand big numbers, or they are trying to con you by intentionally Mything the Point.

"Treat each federal dollar as if it was hard earned.  It was -- by a taxpayer."
- Donald Rumsfeld, in Rumsfeld's Rules
Mything the Point ©:
"Examining unexamined beliefs America accepts on faith value."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Mything the Point of "Never Forget"


I don't know about you, but every time I hear Lockheed-Martin's slogan I can't help but wonder, "Who are they working for?"  I'm just not feeling the love.  Of course, I'm not the Pentagon and Lockheed-Martin is not my #1 supplier.  I'm not saying there is anything inherently wrong with that.  I'm just stunned we even know the Pentagon's #1 supplier.  Why?  Because it's impossible to audit the Pentagon's budget.  You probably think I'm making that up.  Did you know the Pentagon can't account for 25% of the money they spend? It's a fact.  Look it up.

I'm sure you figure an accounting problem bigger than Enron, WorldCom, and Global Crossing combined would have gotten some press, right?  Don't worry, it has.  On September 10, 2001 Donald Rumsfeld dropped this bombshell on the American public:  "[The Pentagon] cannot track 2.3 trillion dollars in transactions."  

That's right.... 2.3 TRILLION dollars. Let me put that in perspective for you. Our entire galaxy has about 100 billion stars in it.  That means that if every unaccounted dollar was a star, you would have enough stars to make TWENTY Milky Way galaxies with plenty left over for a galaxy of your own and a few for your friends.  

You are probably wondering why this problem doesn't get mentioned every time people talk about the deficit.  I can think of one reason.  The events of September 11, 2001 knocked Rummy's announcement of September 10, 2001 off the front page faster than you could say "the new normal."  Since then the defense budget for major U.S. weapons has doubled to nearly $1.4 trillion.  That's FOURTEEN Milky Ways right there.  

At this point you probably won't be surprised to learn one program highlighted as contributing to those cost increases was the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, under development by -- Lockheed-Martin.  If you think I'm unfairly singling out this program to beat up on Lockheed-Martin, let me put your mind at ease.  I mention that program because it will be the Pentagon's costliest purchase ever.

Here's why I bring all this to your attention: Since 9/11 have spent $274 Billion fighting the "Long War," as Rumsfeld likes to now call it. The vast majority of that has been spent in Iraq. Almost all of that is funded via supplemental budget resolutions. That means it never shows up in the budgets. The latest installment in this fiasco is working its way to the Senate floor. Guess how much it will be this year. If you guessed $106 Billion dollars, you would be close.

This year we need to make sure our representatives don't forget who they are working for. Anyone voting to endorse another blank check for this open-ended commitment better be ready to explain themselves. We need to know why we should continue putting money we don't have into pockets we can't locate to protect us from a threat we can't define. Especially when the people assigned to defend us from terrorists are planning to spend that money building a new generation of supersonic attack jets.  Color me cynical, but all I can say is anyone who thinks they can defend this offense to common sense by pointing to 9/11 is Mything the Point.

"Treat each federal dollar as if it was hard earned. It was -- by a taxpayer."
- Donald Rumsfeld, in Rumsfeld's Rules

Mything the Point ©:
"Examining unexamined beliefs America accepts on faith value"

Monday, April 17, 2006


Mything the Point of "Angry Liberal Bloggers"

I see everyone is bouncing around because someone at the Post did a hatchet job on liberal bloggers. Hey, if newspaper editorial boards weren't worried about blogs, they would be idiots. Let's take a look at the topic a little more closely.

Poking fun at outrage to diminish the message. That's funny. You want a real laugh?  Do I really need to remind folks that the same Washington Post going after "angry left" bloggers only a couple weeks ago hired an "angry plagiarist"? There’s a reason newspapers are going to dump on bloggers, left, right or center. Let me walk you through their nightmare.

Newspaper circulation is in decline.
They are getting hit in the shorts because readership is declining.  You think this is a joke, consider this:

Number Newspaper Employees 1980:  ~402K
Number of USA Employees in 1980:  ~90 M
Number Newspaper Employees 2003:  ~381K
Number of USA Employees in 2003:  ~130M

There are a lot more people in the labor force today than 25 years ago, but actually fewer people working in newspapers.  Why?  Because papers have folded all across the country in the last 25 years.

In 1980 there were about 62 Million papers sold a day.
In 2003 there were about 55 Million papers sold a day.
So where are all the eyeballs going?

Online. Over 47.3 million people visited online newspapers last September. That represents 31.9 percent of all (US?) Internet users, up 15.8 percent from the same period a year prior.

Now... here's the problem for the infotainment industry.  If more and more of your readers are going online to get your content, they are only a click away from someone else.  This is the reason Online Shopping Malls (remember them from the 1990s?) never worked.  It's the difference between real world and virtual traffic.

In the real world, if you go to a mall, you have to drive across town, park the car and schlep into the store with kids in tow.... maybe they have what you want...maybe they don't.  But close is good enough because you will be damned if you are going to go back to the car and drive across town and repeat this whole drama in some other mall.  Online, it's different.  I don't need no parking validation and if you don't feed me in 15 seconds, I'm out.  

The same thing applies with papers.  How many papers are you going to buy on the way to work? One.  Online..where they are free (except for the WSJ) you can pick and choose based on the content you are interested in.  Google is your friend. Who cares if you are reading one story from the Post, another from the NY Times, and a third from Ha'aretz? Not you... but the folks who pay for full page ads sure as hell do. In other words, someone is eating the newspaper's lunch money and they know that it is only going to get worse.

That's strike one.

There's another problem.  Internet users have only so much time to browse.  The average user probably visits 3 sites for news.  80% of all searching is done at Yahoo, Google, and MSN...guess where they are going for their news?

That's strike two.

RSS has really changed things in the news arena. Why? Because of two things.  First, you can now create your own newsfeed, further fragmenting the sources of information. Actually, it is a new twist on an old concept... clipping services. Only it has a new twist. When you use RSS do you really care where the feed originates? No.  Do the content providers? Hell yeah.  But they have to give it away and lose the hook. Why? Because RSS users visit an average of 10 sites for news!  Brand loyalty is dead.

That's strike three.

So to sum up:
readership is declining.
readers are trading ink on paper for pixels on screens.
readers are aggregating their own content.

Now let's add insult to injury.  The people at the Washington Post deriding the bloggers are the same chucklehaids who thought "Digital Ink" would rock the world... ok that was a cheap shot. But it's true. I made a lot of money betting against them on that one.

Here's the gift that keeps on giving: The news cycle has changed.  Cable news turned it into a 24 hour cycle..and that helped kill the evening editions.  But there was still a cycle that could be pegged to a given day.  The net turned it into a constant stream. It's not even a cycle now.  The newsgroup was created WHILE OJ was fleeing the police!  The president isn't even through his SOTU and people are calling him out on all the facts that are wrong.  Newspapers can try and keep up, but they have to pay people to do what millions of people are doing for free.  That sucks.

And here's the worst part.  As Wikipedia and USENET demonstrate... the marketplace of information is about credibility not credentials.  The quickest way to get the right answer is to post the wrong answer.  Look at how far ahead of the curve net users were on Iraq.  Because we are psychic? No. Because we have millions of eyes looking at the data and way this is a good idea.

So, papers can't compete on price.  They can't compete on timeliness.  Now they are having trouble competing on accuracy.  Analysis is a joke.... so what's left? Shock value?  Infotainment?  Trust me, you don't want to try and compete in those areas ... you doubt it go to Google, and turn your SafeSearch Filtering off.  The boys in the newspapers know all about that. As far as they're concerned, it brings a whole new meaning to "screwed." Any other representation of the new media reality is just mything the point.

Mything the Point © :
"Examining unexamined beliefs America accepts on faith value."

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Mything the Point of "Broken Borders"


Lou Dobbs has been beating this drum with almost as much fervor as he used to bang the "outsourcing is bad" drum.  That puts him in a peculiar spot.  As Stephen Colbert pointed out, "If all the immigrants from Mexico are coming here for jobs, then why not outsource all the jobs? Problem solved."  The ever rational Dobbs had to admit Colbert nailed him with that bon mot.

I don't know which is more ironic, a pundit posing as a comedian getting nailed by a comedian posing as a pundit, or the fact I couldn't think of a good English word to describe what he did.  It doesn't matter.  The important thing is that you have to take a longer view if you want to solve a complex problem. We all know illegal immigration is nothing new. Ask the Indians. When you look at that history, its easy to see how people would get edgy about immigrants.

Here’s the good news: things are different now. First off, we didn't suffer through a series of killer epidemics that wiped out 90% of the population right before the immigrants showed up.   Second off, there are a lot more of us then there are of them.   Third off, we can actually use their labor.   Fourth, and most important, people who immigrate tend to represent the most talented, motivated, optimistic, and enthusiastic parts of the population. Think about it... you honestly think millions of pessimistic, lazy, and depressed losers can get it together to move thousands of miles from home to a place where they don't even speak the language?

I realize people are running around screaming about illegals sucking up resources like health care. There is no question health care costs are a real problem. However, before you start blaming illegal immigrants, consider this simple solution for containing health care costs:  We follow every other industrialized nation over the cliff and get Universal Health Care Insurance.  Don't worry, it's a happy landing.

Here's one number: 3%. That's the administrative overhead for Medicare.
Here's another number: 12%.  That's the administrative overhead for the average private plan.

If we just had Medicare for Americans, the savings in administrative overhead ALONE would cover the costs for the 45 Million uninsured Americans.  Do that and 5 million uninsured immigrants means we have 1/10th the problem we have today ... and it didn't cost us anything. It's a fact. Look it up.

A lot of people complain illegals are here unfairly.  Are you kidding?   America was built on unfairness.  If the Colonists had fought the British fairly they would have stood in plain view and taken their musket shots like men.  They would have been cut to ribbons, the Revolution would have be quashed and we would still be speaking English.  Imagine if we had bit it like that, you know the Brits would still be all up in our grill dogging us like scrub, fo'shizzle my weeble.

That reminds me of another complaint we often hear. “The immigrants are destroying American culture.” What exactly is American culture?  Saturday Night Live? Connie Chung? Jennifer Lopez?

Saturday Night Live is certainly part of the culture. Connie Chung is an icon of post-feminist success. That brings us to Jennifer Lopez. That All-American boriqua de piel canela isn’t part of the culture, she dominates it. She sings, she dances, she acts, she models, she even has her own fashion line and fragrance. It looks like the only thing J. Lo can't do is find Mr. Perfecto.

Let me show you how this all comes together. One of the funniest lines I ever heard delivered on SNL was by J. Lo in a skit where she was a news anchor on a local access cable show called "Good Morning Bronx." She was trying to keep up some semblance of professionalism but her co-anchor wouldn't stop acting like a fool. She finally got him to shut up by shrieking, "You're not gonna mess up my chance to be the Puerto Rican Connie Chung." Only in America, baby.

Face it, people aren't coming here for the culture. People never came here for the culture.  People come here so they can have a better life, and they're willing to risk their lives for the opportunity.   The last time we went through this with Reagan, I remember a story about a teenage pregnant girl that got caught at the border and sent Guatemala.  The girl had walked across Mexico so her baby would be born in El Norte.  That's like walking from Florida to Connecticut.  Barefoot and pregnant.  That's the kind of woman any employer would love to hire.  It doesn't matter how deep the snow gets, or whether the buses are running or not. That girl will always make it to work.

Here's why I bring all this to your attention:  25 years ago Japanese investors bought Rockefeller Center; the home to NBC where they broadcast SNL. People started freaking out.  In the midst of all the public debates, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said "America is an inferior mongrel race."   Looking back, that's pretty damn funny. How many different ways can you be wrong in one sentence?  Anyone who thinks American is a race obviously never rode a bus.  Judging from the collapse of the Nikkei, I would say inferior is as inferior does.  The only thing he got right was the part about us being mongrels.  We call that diversity.  Biologists call it hybrid vigor.  That's the secret to our success.  I say cultivate it, celebrate it, bottle it, and sell it.  It's the American way.
Mything the Point:
"Examining unexamined beliefs Americans accept on faith value."

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