Thursday, December 30, 2010

United Nations Webcast - Special Event: Launching of the International Year of Peoples of African Descent

Speakers will include the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly, the Chair of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent and representatives of Member States.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Open Left:: Disease in drag as diagnosis: The conservative attack on sound public finance.

In an excerpt from his Sept 27 "Government Deficits and Debts Lecture", Brad DeLong lays out his "Five Rules for Public Finance," and a conservative critique that he gives too much credit to. Why is that? Because the conservative critique is less an objective observation of how governments in the welfare state era had acted up to that point than a prospective justification for the conservative looting that was to come. First, here's DeLong's rules (with some shorting that cuts out some interesting, but not essential details in #4 and #5): Five Rules for Public Finance: And so now we have arrived at five rules for public finance: (1) The government must do whatever is necessary in order to make sure that people have confidence it will pay back its debts. (2) You really ought to have budget balance over the business cycle. It is fine to run cyclical deficits in times of high unemployment, but you really should balance them with surpluses when the economy is in a boom. (3) That implies Milton Friedman's Pay-as-You-Go principle that he set out in his late 1940s framework for fiscal and monetary stability: whenever the government takes on a mission to do some long term spending program, it also needs to match that by imposing some tax large enough to fund the spending. Changes in government spending plans over time should be accompanied by changes in taxes so that when politicians make decisions and when voters evaluate politicians there is no gaming the system. (4) You need to keep plenty of headroom in your debt capacity in normal times. In normal times you should aim to keep your debt-to-GDP ratio fairly low. There will come emergencies and opportunities during which you will want to increase your debt-to-GDP ratio. Remember 1803: Thomas Jefferson was president and Napoleon I was about to become Emperor and was willing to sell French "rights" to the entire Louisiana territory. The United States had plenty of debt capacity and could easily afford to borrow--and Jefferson did. Thus we have a United States that doesn't end at the Mississippi river but instead continues all the way on from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast. The War of 1812, Civil War, World War I, World War II--in all of them we were very grateful that we started with a low national debt-to-GDP ratio. The government wanted to fight these wars for reasons that it thought were sufficient. It was able to borrow in order to build the armies and navies and air forces to fight them, It could not have done that if the debt to GDP ratio was really high. The Great Depression and the current Great Recession--we want to respond to them by deficit spending as well.... (5) But that does not mean that countries should not borrow except in emergencies. It is perfectly okay for a government to borrow and run up its debt when it is undertaking projects that are going to primarily benefit future generations.Taxing the citizens of the East Bay and San Francisco right now to pay for the entire reconstruction of the Bay Bridge seems unfair--the new Bay Bridge will still be there and be earthquake-safe 50 years from now. People who are going to move into the San Francisco area 40 years from now will benefit from the bridge. They should pay some part of the cost. Thus you should finance infrastructure projects that build up productive capacity through borrowing and debt. You should also finance current spending through borrowing and debt if you think the future is going to be a lot richer than the present.... So here we have our five rules for public finance. And now here's the conservative critique: Paul Rosenberg :: Disease in drag as diagnosis: The conservative attack on sound public finance. A Right-Wing Conclusion: I want to close this lecture by making a right wing argument that these five rules are inconsistent and we have to drop one of them. This right-wing argument is one that back when I was your age I pooh-poohed as nonsensical and simply silly. But it is 30 years later. I at least feel a little bit wiser. It's not that I believe this right-wing argument completely. But it has much more force with me than it did 30 years ago. The argument comes from Nobel Prize-winning James Buchanan. He pointed out two generations ago that he didn't think that these rules were politically sustainable. If you try to enunciate the principal that cyclical deficits in downturns are good and permanent structural deficits are bad--that is just too complicated for the political system to process. If you tolerate and approve of cyclical deficits to fight downturns, Jim Buchanan argued, then you're setting the political stage for permanent structural deficits because politicians will be eager to grab the argument that the deficits that they want to run are actually good for the economy. Allow cyclical deficits, and you make permanent large structural deficits likely. They will slow growth by crowding out investment. They might eventually lead to an erosion of confidence in the government's ability to pay back its promises--and so lead you down the road to Mad Max. Actually, the structural deficit/structural deficit is not inherently too difficult for the political system to process. This was not an objective assessment of historical reality, but a strategic assessment of political vulnerability, and one that Ronald Reagan proceeded to begin exploiting to the hilt in order to destroy the welfare state, and thus return the majority of the citizenry to a state of permanent want, which conservatives have always thought to be the morally proper order of things. After the 30 years of deliberate Republican fiscal irresponsibility, running huge deficits due to massive reductions in progressive taxation at the national level (while state and local taxes remained hugely regressive, and regressive payroll taxes were also significantly increased), they are positioned to move their long-term attack on the welfare state into its next phase. But it was never the political system in and of itself that couldn't tell the difference between structural and cyclical deficits. That was never the real story of what was going on. It was just the conservative cover story--nothing more. Misleading the public on fiscal policy--among many other things--was always a key aspect of conservative strategy. The problem wasn't the system, but conservative's ability to game the system. And the solution wasn't to give up on sound fiscal thinking, but to strengthen the truth-orientation (aka "reality-based orientation") of the political system. This is, in short, just another chapter in the age-old dispute between liberals and conservatives. Conservatives--living on Kegan's Level 3--say that we're doomed because of the nature of the cosmos and ourselves. Liberals--living on Kegan's Level 4--say, "Wait a minute. There's an app for that." And if not, Radicals--living on Kegan's Level 5--will come along and invent one.

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ThinkProgress » Sen. Shelby’s Pork Lust Forces NASA To Spend $500 Million On Canceled Rocket Program

Sen. Shelby’s Pork Lust Forces NASA To Spend $500 Million On Canceled Rocket Program

Thanks to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), taxpayers are footing a $500 million bill for a NASA rocket that the agency has no plans or desire to continue developing. The Orlando Sentinel reports that pork legislation inserted into a spending bill by Shelby earlier this year is requiring NASA to spend millions on the canceled Ares I rocket program through March, even while the agency can’t find funds to begin a much-needed modernization of the famed Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida:

At the root of the problem is a 70-word sentence inserted into the 2010 budget — by lawmakers seeking to protect Ares I jobs in their home states — that bars NASA from shutting down the program until Congress passed a new budget a year later. [...]

But Congress never passed a 2011 budget and instead voted this month to extend the 2010 budget until March — so NASA still must abide by the 2010 language.[...]

The language that keeps Constellation going was inserted into the 2010 budget last year by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican who sought to protect the program and Ares jobs at Marshall Space Flight Center in his home state.

His office confirmed that the language was still in effect but did not respond to e-mails seeking details.

Nearly all of the money for the program will go to two defense contractors building the Ares rocket, Alliant Techsystems (ATK) and Lockheed Martin, with ATK receiving the bulk. Defense contractors have been a consistent source of financial support for Shelby’s campaigns, contributing to him at higher rates than to other politicians in his state. In particular, Shelby’s 2010 reelection campaign was the top recipient of funds from ATK’s PAC, receiving the maximum $10,000. And the company’s employees appear to have given more to Shelby than to any other politician in the 2010 election cycle.

Shelby certainly has a flair for the dramatic when it comes to extracting pork money for defense contractors in his state. In a “nearly unprecedented” move in February, Shelby placed a blanket hold on every single presidential nominees being considered by the Senate — more than 70 in total, including “top Intelligence officers at the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security as well as the number three civilian at the Pentagon” — in order to pressure to Obama administration to do the bidding of Northrop Grumman on a $40 billion contract for which they were being considered.

He's a better negotiator than most pols.

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Should We Respond to that RFP? | agencyside

by Barbara Weaver Smith, Founder and President of The Whale Hunters

It’s getting harder and harder to do business without responding to RFPs.  More companies are demanding them, and unless you have a strategy to compete effectively for RFP business you will leave money and opportunity on the table.

But RFPs are dangerous.  Not only do they drain time and energy from work that you’ve already sold or other new business opportunities that offer you more control, they also leave you vulnerable.  Some companies use the RFP process only to get new ideas for their internal team, or to lean on their current agency for more creative ideas and cheaper pricing.  It’s quite possible that your proposal will make its way into the hands of a competitor, whether internal or external.

So it’s important to have rules that you follow faithfully when there is an RFP opportunity.

1.        Does it fit your Target Filter criteria?  In other words, is the opportunity right for you?  The right size, the right industry, the right services required?  If not, don’t respond.

2.       Do you have a prior relationship with the organization that put out the RFP?  If the answer is “no,” don’t respond.  Yes, I know there is an occasional fluke where an unknown company gets the job.  But it’s rare, and the odds are stacked against you.

3.       Is there an RFP consultant or head hunter advising the company?  If so, you need to have a relationship with that consultant.  They always prefer that the job go to a vendor with whom they have a prior relationship.  If you don’t know the consultant, don’t respond.

4.       Can you discern why they want to make a change?  Do they have a job that their agency of record can’t do or doesn’t want to do?  Are they looking to fill a niche that is just right for you?  Or do they want to change agencies?   If so, do they change too frequently (a sign of instability and trouble ahead for you)?  If you don’t know what they are trying to accomplish, you don’t know them well enough to respond to their RFP.

5.       Have they allowed sufficient time for a good response?  If it comes in over the transom with a seven day turn-around request, it’s wired for someone else.  How much time is reasonable?  Thirty days is fair.  Three weeks might be okay if it’s a smaller request.  Otherwise, don’t respond.

6.       Do they have excessive creative requirements?  Remember, you are vulnerable every time you design a solution and send it along on paper.  Reputable companies know this and ask for examples or prior experiences without requiring you to invent a plan for them, which of course they could then implement internally or share with an incumbent vendor.  If the requirements seem excessive, they probably are.  Don’t respond.

The bottom line on RFPs is this:  unless you are well-connected with the organization that offers the RFP, you know what they are trying to accomplish, and you are certain it is a good fit, you are better off to let it go.

If you have not yet developed the kinds of relationships that will position you to win RFPs, now is a great time to start!  Get to know an RFP consultant who represents customers that you want.  Introduce yourself and your company to purchasing agents at three key target companies that you would like to do business with.  Learn what they are looking for, how they buy, how you can be competitive in their RFP process.  The time to build the relationship is before an RFP is released, not after.

And make it a New Year’s resolution to “Just Say No” when you know you should!

Co-author of Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Sales and Transform Your Company, Barbara Weaver Smith founded The Whale Hunters to bring a powerful, proven sales and business development process to small companies that want a fast track to growth.  Barbara consults with companies to implement The Whale Hunters Process, trains regional representatives, coaches teams responding to mission-critical RFPs, writes The Whale Hunters Wisdom newsletter, and authors The Whale Hunters blog.

Obama's Comments on Michael Vick Spark Prison Debate - The Daily Beast


By praising Michael Vick’s “second chance” after the NFL quarterback served 19 months in prison on a dogfighting conviction, Mansfield Frazier, an ex-con, says the president is creating an opening for a national discussion on opportunities for former prisoners.

President Barack Obama is causing quite a stir in the national prisoner reentry movement with his comments on Michael Vick. “So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance,” Obama reportedly told the owner of Vick’s football team, the Philadelphia Eagles. “...It’s never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out.”

The Eagles signed Vick after he served 19 months in prison for running a dogfighting operation, and by praising the team’s owner for giving the quarterback a second chance, the president is broaching a subject that’s sure to be polarizing. As states across the U.S. struggle with looming budget deficits, Obama perhaps realizes the timing may be right to address what he has called the country’s “incarceration and post-incarceration crisis” and remove barriers that inhibit successful prisoner reentry by offering former offenders an opportunity to reclaim their lives and a modicum of dignity.

While Obama’s conversation with the Eagles’ owner, Jeffrey Lurie, about second chances for formerly incarcerated persons might be among his most publicized pronouncements on the subject, they certainly were not his first. As a presidential candidate in September 2008, he sent a letter to the Third Annual Prisoner Reentry Summit commending San Francisco city leaders for their “innovate work to reduce recidivism” and pledging to create opportunities for former prisoners if elected.

Obama said in his letter that he “recognized that American urban communities are facing an incarceration and post-incarceration crisis.” He vowed to create a prison-to-work incentive program… to create ties between employers and third-party agencies that provide training and support services to ex-offenders and to improve ex-offender employment and job-retention rates.” He also pledged he would “work to reform correctional systems that prevent former inmates from finding and maintaining employment.”

Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking at the Project Safe Neighborhoods Annual Conference in July, echoed the president’s commitment to the issue by stating that incarceration is not an economically sustainable way to combat crime.

“Most Americans have a very punitive mind-set…they don’t seem to care that we lock up far too many people, for far too long, for relatively minor crimes.”

Article - Frazier Obama Prison Obama speaks out on Michael Vick and felons getting second chances. Credit: Getty Images; AP Photo

“At the close of 2009, the U.S. prison population was 1,610,446—a rate of 504 inmates in custody per 100,000 U.S. residents,” wrote Randall G. Shelden, a senior research fellow at the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice, in a recently posted research brief. “If we include jails, the number of people incarcerated totals more than 2.3 million, and the incarceration rate climbs to 754... The United States incarcerates almost 25 percent of the world’s prisoners yet has only 5 percent of the world’s population.”

Holder’s verdict on the cost of our “incarceration nation”: “At a cost of $60 billion per year our prisons and jails do little to prepare prisoners for jobs. This is a recipe for high recidivism. And it’s the reason that two-thirds of those released are rearrested within three years. It’s time for a new approach.”

Michael Vick’s case might provide the right entrée for a national conversation about such a new approach.

Happy holidays and new year, b safe.

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Harold Meyerson - Stimulus funds on the slow track

When Democratic senators and representatives voted to approve the $787 billion stimulus package nearly two years ago, the ones who came from swing states and districts knew they were taking a political risk. What they didn't know was that the economic benefits of the stimulus would become so entangled in red tape that even today, much of that money remains unspent.

A story that ran Sunday in the Los Angeles Times estimated that only a quarter of the $630 million in federal funds allotted to the city of Los Angeles had been spent. Los Angeles is in no way exceptional. California Inspector General Laura Chick, who was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to monitor the state's stimulus spending, estimates that only about half of California's federal funds have been spent.

Some parts of the stimulus - those that go to defray the states' Medicaid costs, for example, or for extended unemployment insurance - get disbursed immediately. Funds devoted to preserving ongoing governmental operations have been spent at a steady clip as well. By the end of September, according to numbers I crunched from the California, Texas and New York City Web sites, these places had spent 63, 58 and 61 percent, respectively, of the federal funds targeted toward public schools - and each is on track to use up what was designed as a two-year allocation by the end of this school year.

The funds that went to existing government services and benefits, in short, were spent as intended. Their effect on the larger economy was to keep things from getting worse by preserving the status quo - just as this month's tax deal, by forestalling tax increases, avoided diminishing the level of money in circulation. But much of the money devoted to boosting private-sector hiring, above all in construction, remains stubbornly unspent, nearly two years after President Obama signed the stimulus into law.

At September's end, just one-third of the $4.5 billion allocated to California for transportation projects had been spent, the state's Web site shows. In Texas, just 5 percent of the funds allocated to the largest energy project had been expended, while in New York City, only 27 percent of the funds allocated for infrastructure and 3 percent of those targeted for improving energy efficiency had been spent. Some of this money is for long-term projects, but most of it isn't.

When it comes to building things, the stimulus, as Lincoln said of Gen. George McClellan, has the slows. Ironically, when we think of our iconic stimulus programs - the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and other New Deal public employment programs - we think of the things they built: the Bonneville and Boulder (now Hoover) dams; the Triborough and San-Francisco-Oakland Bay bridges; the aircraft carriers Enterprise and Yorktown; LaGuardia and National (now Reagan) airports; and thousands of schools, post offices and roads.

What's more, the New Deal built them at a pace that seems almost incomprehensible today. When the winter of 1933-34 loomed, President Franklin Roosevelt wanted to forestall a wave of starvation in a nation that didn't yet have unemployment insurance or food stamps. He authorized Harry Hopkins, his jobs-wizard, to create a four-month-long project (the Civil Works Administration) that would employ 4 million people. Beginning operations on Nov. 9, Hopkins had 2.6 million Americans on the job by Christmas and 4.3 million by February - this in a nation of 125 million. In their four months on the jobs, they built or improved 40,000 schools and 998 airports.

So what happened? How have we gone from a nation that could put millions productively to work in two months to a nation that still struggles to restart our construction sector two years after the stimulus passed?

Part of the answer is technological: Most WPA and CWA workers were employed on pick-and-shovel jobs long since replaced by labor-saving (and job-reducing) machines. Part of the answer is that big government (the stimulus) was slowed by good-government requirements (environmental impact reports, competitive bidding and the like) that didn't exist in the '30s. Also, strapped state and local governments laid off many of the workers needed to approve the stimulus projects. Layoffs and furloughs in California's Office of Historic Preservation, the state's inspector general told me this summer, created a 60-day bottleneck for even routine structural improvements.

Infrastructure projects remain among the most stimulative forms of anti-recessionary activity - so long as the projects actually happen. That's one reason liberals like me have enthusiastically supported them. It's now clear, however, that unless presidents, governors and mayors appoint their own Harry Hopkinses and create fast-track procedures for construction, stimulus projects will be no more than a pale ghost of their 1930s' predecessors, unemployment will remain outrageously high and the politicians who backed the stimulus will be left scrambling for explanations. These are among the grim lessons of our mega-recession, as many of those swing-district Democrats can sadly attest.

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Monday, December 27, 2010 Online Bazaar Builds on Its Base With Sense of Community

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TECHNOLOGY   | December 26, 2010
Online Bazaar Builds on Its Base With Sense of Community
Started as a way for hobbyists and crafty types to sell their goods, Etsy has blossomed into a thriving e-commerce site.


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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Top 10 Digital Advertising Innovations of 2010

About 1 day ago Todd Wasserman 15 Top 10 Digital Advertising Innovations of 2010 692 Share 1017 inShare 30 digg email share Do you like this story? As Mashable contributor Jesse Thomas recently noted, Silicon Valley is quickly becoming the new Madison Avenue. Looking back over the past year’s advertising landscape, it’s not the individual campaigns that stick in the mind as much as the use and pioneering of new technology. This year was a transitional year in which much-hyped mobile advertising began to be a serious player, Apple once again changed the business and brands began fostering real, two-way conversations with consumers. Here’s a look at some of the top new technologies that redefined advertising in 2010. 1. Old Spice’s Response Videos Old Spice, a perennially troubled brand at Procter & Gamble, had watched Unilever’s Axe steal its thunder for most of the past decade. Miraculously, the brand was able to become relevant to a new generation of male consumers thanks to a clever ad campaign. The “Smell like a man, man,” ads featured an over-the-top confident Isaiah Mustafa, who somehow was able to make men insecure and be likable at the same time. If this was 1999, that would be the end of it, but agency Wieden + Kennedy offered a nice interactive twist: The agency and Mustafa shot more than 180 videos responding to consumers’ inquiries. Talk about breaking the fourth wall: For those raised on traditional TV advertising, it was like Mustafa was re-enacting Jeff Daniels’ role in The Purple Rose of Cairo — a matinee idol who popped out of the screen and into real life. 2. Bar Code Scanning Marketers and mobile advertising firms had been trying for a while to foster the use of QR codes — logos that consumers could scan with their phones to access online content. But for makers of packaged goods, such codes take up valuable real estate on packaging. Stickybits and another firm called CauseWorld addressed this issue with new technologies that read bar codes. The former struck deals with both Coca-Cola and Pepsi as well as Campbell’s Soup. The latter worked with Procter & Gamble and Kraft on a program in which consumers could amass “karma points” for scanning the codes, which earned contributions to consumers’ favorite causes. Truth be told, the bar code readers don’t always work that well and it’s unclear how many consumers will take the time, but, by using bar codes, the two companies provided another big step toward mobile-enhanced interactive shopping. 3. Location-Based Advertising Marketers were eager to catch on to the popularity of services like Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places, but successful programs were few and far between. Starbucks’ was a notable failure. The company rushed in with a program that offered $1 off any size Frappuccino for its mayors. The program resulted in a 50% increase in checkins at Starbucks locations, according to Foursquare, but many Starbucks locations appeared unaware of the campaign. Similarly, the first big promotion for Facebook Places, a jeans giveaway from Gap for the first 10,000 customers to check in to the program at a Gap location, encountered similar problems. On the other hand, SCVNGR may have found a winning formula with a more game-oriented approach that drew the likes of American Apparel, AT&T and Coca-Cola. The combination of new, perhaps slightly arrogant tech companies and inconsistent messaging at retail, however, is likely a short-term problem. Look for much more location-based marketing campaigns in 2011. 4. iAds With its untouchable veneer of cool and its domination of the market of high-end, consumer-friendly, cutting edge gadgets, marketers are positively salivating about the idea of getting on any Apple platform. With the introduction of the iPad and the iPhone 4, Apple obliged with a new, full-screen rich media environment that CEO Steve Jobs described as “mobile ads with emotion” and positioned as a format for ads that consumers would want to watch. With an eye on quality control, Apple set the bar high: Advertisers reportedly had to spend at least $1 million and as much as $10 million to run an iAd. But, the company may be relaxing a bit. This month, Apple opened iAd development with iAd Producer, which let marketers and their agencies create iAds even if they didn’t know HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. 5. Promoted Tweets As Twitter established itself as the third of the social media Holy Trinity (along with Facebook and LinkedIn), the company set its sights on a business model. With great fanfare, Twitter introduced Promoted Tweets in April. Taking a page from Google, the idea was that people searching for various terms on Twitter would see the sponsored terms along with organic results. Marketers like Coca-Cola and Virgin America experimented with the program, with laudable results. (Coke reported a 6% engagement rate for its campaign, while Virgin America posted its fifth-highest sales day ever thanks to Promoted Tweets.) By year’s end, like Apple, Twitter appeared to be democratizing the program. This month, a form for prospective advertisers appeared on Twitter’s site. The company is expected to start implementing that turnkey solution in earnest early next year. 6. Group Buying Not for nothing did Google offer to shell out upwards of $6 billion for Groupon. The two-year-old company is profitable, popular and on to a winning formula that can be executed on a large scale. Groupon, which offers deals if a certain amount of consumers take part, proved the latter in August through its first national deal, with Gap to sell $50 worth of apparel and accessories for $25. While previously, the site was known for local daily deals with small businesses, the Gap program was a huge success. In one day, the company sold 441,000 Groupons, netting about $11 million. At the moment, Groupon is the biggest player in this emerging space by far, but the interest from Google will no doubt spur deep-pocketed competitors to file in. 7. Personalized Video Though not traditional advertising, a video from the band Arcade Fire opened new possibilities this summer. Working with Google, the band’s video for “The Wilderness Downtown” could be personalized by typing in the address of your childhood home. If Google Maps has enough footage, the site conjures up a highly personalized video about the end of childhood. Taking a similar tack, a company called Brave New Films, on behalf of the Service Employees International Union and MoveOn, released a Facebook-based app in March that let users plug in their personal info for a highly entertaining video of Glenn Beck ranting about…you. After using the app, Beck’s chalkboard was filled with pictures of you and your friends along with their names and other personal data. The point: Glenn Beck could just as easily be attacking you. 8. CAPTCHA Advertising Everyone at one point or another has used a Captcha (an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”) to prove they are human and not a bot. But who would think to turn a Captcha into an ad? Solve Media, for one. The company worked with Toyota, Microsoft and Dr. Pepper, among others, on the type of ad that consumers just couldn’t ignore. For Dr Pepper, for instance, users were prompted to type in “There’s nothing like a Pepper” instead of the usual gibberish. Later, Solve incorporated video for a campaign for Universal’s film Devil. 9. Error Message Advertising Taking a similar idea, Digg launched a program in March with Burger King to turn those annoying error messages into advertising as well. For a time, typos on Digg were countered with the message, “No results for ‘X’ were found. Looks like your search had a typo. Blame it on your tiny hands. The beefy $1 Burger King Double Cheeseburger gives tiny hands some trouble, too,” which led to a link to a Burger King ad featuring a man with tiny hands. 10. Chatroulette Always on the lookout for the next big thing, marketers set their sights for a time on Chatroulette, an app that combined roulette and video chat with often unsettling results (the site quickly became known for the flashing of penises). The implication for marketers was unclear until Travelocity dropped its gnome mascot into the mix, just in time for April Fool’s Day. While Chatroulette doesn’t look to be the next Facebook for marketers, Travelocity showed that innovative thinking can transcend the limitations of any digital format. More Marketing Resources from Mashable: - 5 Predictions for the Public Relations Industry in 2011 - 6 Predictions for Digital Advertising in 2011 - 6 Ways to Market on Foursquare Without a Location - HOW TO: Make a Successful Marketing Video for the Web - The 10 Most Innovative Viral Video Ads of 2010

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Mayoral race focus turns to fundraising

Focus of mayoral race shifts to fundraising

By Kristen Mack and John Byrne, Tribune reporters

December 25, 2010


With Chicago's mayoral contest coming into clearer focus, the campaign now turns to fundraising shows of strength, a scramble to consolidate support and preparations for an early voting push.

Rahm Emanuel took a big step toward solidifying his spot on the ballot, and state Sen. James Meeks shook up the political calculations by dropping out late last week.

A lull between Christmas and New Year's is expected as voters celebrate the holidays. When the calendar turns to 2011, candidates will have seven weeks until the Feb. 22 election.

The next benchmark in the contest is campaign fundraising. The current cash collection period ends Friday and reports are due by Jan. 20, but candidates with something to brag about are sure to start trickling figures out sooner.

Showing strength in the money game tends to boost the perception of a candidate's viability, leading to more campaign donations. Conversely, a weak campaign checkbook can lead to a downward spiral as money sources shrivel up.

The field got smaller with Meeks' departure, and it could shrink further. The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners still could toss as many as five largely unknown mayoral candidates off the ballot in the coming weeks. What started out as a field of 20 could be cut to eight.

Meeks' decision is viewed in Chicago political circles as helping the other two major African-American candidates, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, because the black vote could be less splintered. A recent Tribune poll found black voters supporting Davis at 21 percent, Meeks at 13 percent and Braun at 10 percent, with another 30 percent undecided.

Geographically, Braun could benefit more — she's now the only remaining South Side African-American candidate, with Davis hailing from the West Side. The city's South Side historically has had greater voter turnout than its West Side. The city's only elected African-American mayor, the late Harold Washington, hailed from the South Side.

As for whether there should be further winnowing among black candidates, Braun said it's not necessary for another African-American contender to drop out.

"There are two Hispanic candidates. There are still what, 18 candidates in the race?" said Braun, only slightly exaggerating the total. "We're all going to be called to present our positions, to make our case to the entire city that this is not a city divided, that we are one community."

Davis, who got the backing of a group of African-American ministers, community leaders and elected officials who were seeking a consensus candidate, likes the idea.

"I don't think anybody would disagree, a unified community is the most desired outcome that can take place from any of these conversations," Davis said.

City Clerk Miguel del Valle, one of two major Latino candidates along with Gery Chico, questioned whether such a scenario would be best for the city.

"I'm a Latino, and I've been approached by people in the Latino community who say we need to back a single candidate," del Valle said. "My response to that has been that I want to be elected mayor by every corner of the city, every ethnic group. This campaign should be about bringing people together."

The fundamental dynamic of the contest, however, hasn't changed much. With five major candidates still in, it remains a difficult task for any one of them to muster the 50 percent plus one needed to win outright on Feb. 22.

Emanuel is off to a wide lead in early polls, leaving other candidates trying to gain traction. The goal is to hold Emanuel under a majority and finish in the top two to force an April 5 runoff. A head-to-head matchup provides a clearer contrast for voters and potentially lessens the impact of Emanuel's expected large fundraising advantage.

Meeks' departure is viewed as most hurting Chico, the former Chicago Board of Education president. One less top contender means there are fewer candidates splitting up the overall vote. Chico has been trying to position himself as the alternative to Emanuel and has early support from old-line establishment bosses such as Ald. Ed Burke, 14th.

As for Emanuel, he talked about moving forward and focusing on issues after the elections board voted Friday to keep him on the ballot. But a month or more of court challenges loom if the case makes it to the Illinois Supreme Court. The ballot challenge will still be a distraction for Emanuel, though not as big of one as if he was fighting to get back on the ballot.

The situation needs to be settled fairly quickly — early voting starts Jan. 31 and city officials must have time to print the ballots.

Copyright © 2010, Chicago Tribune

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When the Diagnosis Is 'Dead Butt Syndrome'

Jen Miller at the finish of the Ocean Drive 10 Miler in Wildwood, N.J.

My butt, unfortunately, is dead.

“Dead butt syndrome,” the sports medicine doctor said to me after making me go through a series of circus-act contortions that involved swiveling my hip in all directions. His voice was very serious, his tone stern. I wondered if I should start making funeral arrangements for my rear, maybe a New Orleans-style blowout parade?

Hold the tuba. My butt’s not really dead. It can’t be revived with defibrillator paddles, but it can be fixed.

The technical name of the condition I have is gluteus medius tendinosis — an inflammation of the tendons in the gluteus medius, one of three large muscles that make up the butt. It’s a very isolated and painful injury that knocked me out of marathon training in January with stabbing pains in my hip. It’s a symptom related to what running experts hammer at: the need for cross-training and strength training. I was running so much that I told myself I didn’t have time for the exercise machines or weights, so I have no one to blame but myself.

I’ve been running for five years, but I’d never heard of the problem. I ran it by a friend, a former track coach at the University of Pennsylvania, and he was baffled too. I haven’t seen any coverage, though the doctor said it’s fairly common with runners who train for half marathons and beyond. It took him five minutes to figure out the problem.

“A new thought in running medicine is that almost all lower extremity injuries, whether they involve your calf, your plantar fascia or your iliotibial band, are linked to the gluteus medius,” said Dr. Darrin Bright, a sports medicine physician with Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and medical director of that city’s marathon. “In the last five to 10 years, we’ve just realized how much of an important role the gluteus medius plays in stabilizing the hips and the pelvis in running.”

If you think of the pelvis as a cup, the muscles that attach to it, including the three gluteal muscles and the lower abdominals, interact in an intricate choreography to keep the cup upright when you run or walk. If these muscles are strong, the cup stays in place with no pain. If one or more of those muscles is weak, the smaller muscles around the hip take on pressure they weren’t designed to bear.

The cup still stays up, but at a price. First come muscle tears and inflammation, followed by scar tissue in the muscle. If left untreated, this process becomes a cycle that keeps feeding into itself.

“For people who have persistent pain, it’s healing gone wrong,” Dr. Bright said. “That gluteus medius isn’t firing the way it’s supposed to. You’re getting an inhibition of the muscle fibers. It’s kind of dead.”

Some of us run through the pain, which is what I did. And many compensate by adjusting their strides in a way that impedes the gait and can lead to problems in the quads, hamstrings, Achilles tendons, heels, knees, calves, ankles, feet or toes.

“Whether they’re recreational weekend runners up to the elite marathoners, the majority of runners I see have weak gluteus medius and gluteus maximus muscles,” said Dr. David Webner, a sports medicine doctor at Crozer-Keystone Health System in Springfield, Pa.

For about 70 percent of his patients, physical therapy that stretches the muscles in the hip and leg and strengthens the gluteus muscles, along with a temporary reduction in the mileage and intensity of running, resolves the problem. Deep tissue massage, which sends more blood to the area to break up scar tissue, along with strength training may also help to break the cycle of inflammation and scarring.

More advanced approaches include ultrasound guided tenotomy, which uses ultrasound to identify the affected muscles and then “poke little holes in the area of the scar tissue,” Dr. Webner said, or platelet-rich plasma therapy, which involves injections of centrifuged blood products and is what Tiger Woods underwent after knee surgery last year.

Fortunately, I didn’t need to take it that far. I’m lucky — the pain has ebbed with physical therapy and changing one of my weekly runs to a cross-training workout.

“Those runners who do multiple types of exercising are less prone to have weakness than runners who do just running,” said Dr. Webner. “Triathletes who come into my office don’t have as much weakness as just solo runners.”

So I’m biking. I row. I sweat through elliptical workouts at the gym.

And I no longer have the feeling that a pin is stabbing my hip every time I drive. I can sit for more than a half hour without pain. And last month I ran the Amish Bird-in-Hand half marathon, and felt no more discomfort than you’d expect to endure running 13.1 miles through the hills of Pennsylvania Dutch country.

To keep my rear alive, I must be vigilant about continuing to strengthen my lower abdominal and gluteal muscles. Last week, I slacked off and the pain came creeping back.

Is it annoying to have to focus so much on these muscles to run? Absolutely. But if it’ll revive my butt, it’s worth every leg lift and crunch.

Jen A. Miller is the author of “The Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May.”

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One for the Books - Friday, December 24, 2010

This month’s final flurry of legislative successes for President Obama and the Democratic Congress underscores the difficulty of rendering a single verdict on their tumultuous two years in power.

In November, Democrats forfeited control of the House after suffering the largest midterm losses for either party since 1938. They absorbed stinging defeats in the Senate as well. But before that, and to an utterly unexpected extent after that as well, Obama and congressional Democrats passed into law an enormous agenda. This Congress will enter the history books for the magnitude of both its political losses and its legislative victories.

The program that Democrats implemented during Obama’s first two years doesn’t approach the Himalayan peaks of the first congressional sessions for Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. But probably not since Johnson has either party implemented as much of its agenda in a single legislative session as Democrats did in this one. “You probably have to go back to Johnson to see something as substantial as this,” says presidential historian Robert Dallek, a Johnson biographer. Historian Alan Brinkley of Columbia University agrees: “Legislatively, this Congress has probably done more than any Congress since the 1960s.”

Democrats had their legislative disappointments. Mostly because of Senate filibusters, they could not pass limits on carbon emissions, reform the labor laws or the immigration system, or establish a public competitor to private health insurers. Obama felt compelled to accept the extension of George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy. Nor could he persuade Congress to back his pledge to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

But the achievements in the ledger’s other column are imposing. Health care and financial-services reform top that list. The 2009 economic-stimulus package contained, by some measures, more net new public investment in education, infrastructure, and clean energy than Bill Clinton achieved during his entire two terms. Other significant wins included bills that restructured and increased college financial aid, toughened pay-equity laws for women, expanded national service, and provided new credit card protections to consumers. This week’s Senate vote approving the New START pact provided Obama a bipartisan foreign policy-victory that steamrolled the opposition of the GOP Senate leadership.

Many of these bills fulfilled long-standing Democratic goals. Presidents of both parties since FDR had pursued comprehensive health care reform; Obama alone signed it into law. The repeal of the Pentagon’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy that Obama signed this week concluded an effort to allow gays to serve openly that dated back to Clinton’s 1992 campaign. Earlier, Obama signed legislation protecting sexual orientation under the hate-crimes law and more closely equalizing the penalties for possession of powder and crack cocaine--in each case implementing changes key Democratic constituencies have likewise sought since the 1990s.

Almost without notice, Obama ended a similar odyssey of even greater consequence. In 1996, Clinton’s Food and Drug Administration asserted the authority to regulate the marketing and sale of tobacco products; in 2000, the Supreme Court said it overreached. Since then, public health advocates had repeatedly failed to pass legislation providing FDA that authority (partly because of Bush’s opposition). Last year, Congress finally approved the bill and Obama signed it. FDA has already banned candy-flavored cigarettes and proposed to strengthen health warning labels. “That was the most significant legislative action that the Congress has [ever] taken with regard to tobacco,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

Why didn’t this record provide Democrats more defense against the wave that capsized their House majority? One (smaller) reason is that the interminable struggle over health care overshadowed much of it. More important, conservatives, and even many independents, recoiled from the cumulative scale and cost of these initiatives at a time of economic unease. Most important, as the downturn lingered, the Democrats’ agenda appeared incapable of, and even tangential to, creating jobs, the public’s main concern. Many of the Democrats’ priorities “didn’t seem relevant to what the public was struggling with,” says lobbyist Vic Fazio, the former chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

One other factor contributed. Democrats passed such a comprehensive agenda largely because they achieved near-parliamentary levels of party unity in Congress. That focus on uniting Democrats was probably unavoidable given lockstep Republican opposition, but it produced a kind of myopia. On the biggest issues--health care and stimulus--Democrats spoke mostly to each other and never attracted enough public support beyond their core coalition.

All of these factors converged to ignite a fierce backlash against Democrats in the midterm election. If that recoil carries a Republican past Obama in 2012 as well, many of the Democratic legislative achievements could be uprooted. But if Obama wins a second term, he could instead institutionalize his key reforms. The huge federal deficit, and growing Republican strength in Congress, virtually ensures that the Democrats’ latest tide of Washington activism has already crested. Yet, if Obama can steer a course to a second term, the powerful imprint of that surge might endure.



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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2 firefighters dead, 17 hurt in extra-alarm blaze - Chicago Breaking News

2 firefighters dead, 17 hurt in extra-alarm blaze December 22, 2010 2:44 PM | No Comments | UPDATED STORY Chicago fire personnel evacuate an injured firefighter at a extra-alarm fire at 1700 East 75th Street. (E. Jason Wambsgans/ Chicago Tribune) | MORE PHOTOS Corey Ankum and Edward Stringer were among a dozen firefighters putting out a blaze in an abandoned building at daybreak today when suddenly the roof gave way. Steven Ellerson, a 20-year veteran, and others swarmed inside to rescue them. "He heard someone calling for help and he looked for him," Ellerson's brother Maurice Matthews said. Ellerson found Ankum on the floor, gasping. Firefighters dig through rubble as they search for trapped colleagues after a brick wall collapsed at a South Side fire in a vacant commercial building. (WGN-TV) "He found him and knew he was struggling to breathe so he took off his mask to give him some oxygen," Matthews said. "Corey's head was stuck somehow and they couldn't get him out. So my brother went to give him his coat but they came and got my brother out of there. My brother didn't want to leave him, but there was no choice. "It was a chaotic scene," Matthews said. "These guys put their lives on the line every day." Stringer and another trapped firefighter was rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, police closing ramps and clearing the way for the ambulances. Ankum was taken to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said both firefighters died of trauma. Ankum had been with the department less than two years, Stringer about 12 years. The other trapped firefighter taken to Northwestern was "stable," according to Chicago Fire Cmsr. Robert Hoff. In all, 19 firefighters suffered injuries, Hoff said at an afternoon news conference. He said the injuries of those who survived were not considered life-threatening. This is the worst fire for the department since February 1998, when two firefighters died in a blaze. A roof collapsed at 10611 S. Western Avenue, killing Patrick King, 40, and Anthony Lockhart, 40. They were among the first to enter the building. In August, Christopher Wheatley died when he fell about 35 feet off a ladder while battling a fire at a West Loop restaurant. The deaths came on the 100th anniversary of a huge fire at the Union Stockyards that claimed the life of 21 Chicago firefighters, the single greatest loss in U.S. history of professional big-city firefighters until Sept. 11, 2001. Late this morning, dozens of firefighters stood at attention, removing their caps and saluting, as Ankum's body was taken from the hospital and put in an ambulance. A police escort led the ambulance to the medical examiner's office. A similar procession with a dozen department vehicles left Northwestern just after noon with Stringer's body. A little before 1 p.m., a member of the Fire Department walked out of the Cook County morgue carrying a folded City of Chicago flag and a red plastic bag and clothing that one of the fallen firefighters was wearing when he died. The firefighter said about 50 members of the department gathered inside the medical examiner's office to honor their dead comrades' bravery and service. "Bravery, honor, valor, and a commitment to duty. It's just paying tribute," he said. "We're all devastated." He described the dead as "excellent men and excellent firemen." The firefighter's job was keeping track of the fallen firefighter's belongings. "It's an honorable task," he said. Hoff said firefighters were in the building and on the roof, searching for hot spots and whether anyone was inside, when the roof collapsed. The two who died were inside the building, he said. "The search effort was aggressive, two members were found immediately," Hoff said at a news conference. "Every firefighter that was there did the best they could to save their brothers. "We had to use some extrication devices to get at a couple of them. The structure was a flat roof in the front and a bow-string truss in the back. The roof was made of heavy timber. We're investigating what caused that heavy roof to collapse. "We can only put a theory out there that, because the fire wasn't that well involved in that area. . .that maybe the snow and ice (were a factor). Maybe the age of the building contributed?" Hoff said officials decided to search inside the building because "people in this kind of weather seek refuge and we take no building as being vacant. We do it cautiously, but we go in for people who may try to get out of the cold." Hoff said there was "no indication to the chief officers and company officers at the scene that (the roof) was in danger of collapse. That's when we make our decision to go in and do a search." Hoff would not speculate on what caused the fire. Firefighters -- their faces and uniforms covered in soot -- shook their heads as they embraced one another after the search was called off. At Northwestern, about half a dozen police cars and several fire vehicles were parked in front of the emergency room after two ambulances arrived from the fire. Truck 122 pulled up and three firefighters walked in, including a lieutenant. One firefighter from Truck 122 was on a cell phone and wiped away tears with his jacket. Robert Smart, owner of the Smart Bros. Car Wash and Detailing next door to the burned building, said he arrived at his business at 7 a.m. to find the block swarming with firefighters. He saw two people being brought out on stretchers, followed by two firefighters. He got a good look at one fireman. "He looked pretty bad," said Smart, adding the firefighter did not appear conscious. Rescuers appeared to be trying to revive the injured firefighter in the middle of the street as they waited for an ambulance to arrive. Jorico Smart, who with his father Robert has owned the car wash for 16 years, said he has called police at least a dozen times in recent years to report people trespassing in the abandoned building next door. Smart characterized the trespassers as squatters. Last month, Smart's brother called police to report a break-in. Chuck Dai, who co-owns the building with a younger brother, said he has been struggling to keep squatters from entering ever since his laundry business at the site failed about six years ago and he stopped paying property taxes on the site. "It's been a tiresome battle just to keep it buttoned up and everything," said Dai, 61, speaking from another laundromat he owns nearby. Though the property has been boarded up several times, he said, "somehow they managed to break in." Dai said he had no idea how the fire started. He learned about the dramatic rescue attempt and the death of two city firefighters while watching the morning news in horror, he said. "I'm pretty down right now," Dai said, his voice growing hoarse with emotion. "I'm at a loss for words about the whole situation. I feel bad about the firemen getting hurt." The fire broke out about 6:54 a.m. in the abandoned one-story brick building in the 1700 block of East 75th Street. The fire was raised to two and then three alarms to save the trapped firefighters; Hoff said that there was no indication that the fire was in the truss roof at the time the roof collapsed. A "mayday" was called. Firefighters also reported having problems with frozen hydrants, but Hoff said only one hydrant was frozen and it was not hampering firefighting efforts when the collapse happened. -- Pat Curry, Cynthia Dizikes, Carlos Sadovi, Will Lee, Serena Maria Daniels, Jeremy Gorner, Antonio Olivo and Noreen Ahmed-Ullah

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

RE: Feliz Navidad!

Scott Cunningham has sent you a message. Date: 12/22/2010 Subject: RE: Feliz Navidad! T’was Before That In Night in Spanglish 'Twas the night before Christmas and all through our casa, Not a creature was stirring -- Caramba! Que pasa? Los ninos were tucked away in their camas, Some in long underwear, some in pijamas. While hanging the stockings with mucho cuidado, In hopes that old Santa would feel obligado. To bring all children, both buenos and malos, A nice batch of dulces and other regalos. Outside in our yard there arose such a grito, That I jumped to my feet like a fightened cabrito. I ran to the window and looked out afuera, And who in the world do you think that it era? Saint Nick in a sleigh and a big red sombrero, Came dashing along like a crazy bombero. And pulling his sleigh instead of venados, Were eight little burros approaching volados. I watched as they came and this quaint little hombre, Was shouting and whistling and calling by nombre: "Ay Pancho, ay Pepe, ay Cuco, ay Beto, Ay Chato, ay Chopo, Macuco, y Nieto!" Then standing erect with his hands on his pecho, He flew to the top of our very own techo. With his round little belly like a bowl of jalea, He struggled to squeeze down our old chiminea. Then huffing and puffing at last in our sala, With soot smeared all over his red suit de gala, He filled all the stockings with lovely regalos, For none of the ninos had been very malos. Then chuckling aloud, seeming very contento, He turned like a flash and was gone like the viento. And I heard him exclaim, and this is verdad, Merry Christmas to all, and Feliz Navidad! Have a Bueno Christmas from The Children of Colombia & Scott Cunningham

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Ed Schultz on Feud with Rush Limbaugh and Why He's Mad at Obama - The Daily Beast

Ed Schultz was a right-wing radio talk-show host—until he fell in love with a liberal and hit the big time. Howard Kurtz talks to Schultz about his feud with Rush and why he’s mad at Obama.

After bashing the president's tax-cut compromise on MSNBC for four straight nights, Ed Schultz found himself breaking bread with Barack Obama in the small dining room off the Oval Office.  

“Mr. President, the American people didn't vote for you because of a policy or your stance on health care. They voted for you because you inspired them, you got into their soul,” the high-decibel host said. Insisting that he take on the Republicans, Schultz declared: “I think you're selling yourself short. You can win that fight.”  

Obama stared at him intently and said flatly: “This is where we’re going.”  

A former college quarterback with a beefy frame and booming voice, Schultz has emerged as a fiery populist who doesn't mind singeing his own side, even as he reserves his most inflammatory rhetoric—“ruthless,” “mean,” “rotten to the core”—for Republicans. Five years ago, he was a radio guy in Fargo, North Dakota, borrowing money to stay afloat; now MSNBC is touting him as a surprise star of its liberal lineup.  

Schultz defends the harsh personal rhetoric he employs against conservative politicians and pundits. “Liberals have been vilified, laughed at for years,” he says. “It's good to give it back to them.”  

His fans seem to agree. The Ed Show just enjoyed its best quarter and is up 19 percent this year over last, averaging 637,000 viewers. That is way behind Special Report With Bret Baier on Fox News, which is up 4 percent with 2.1 million viewers, but ahead of Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room on CNN, down 29 percent with 544,000 viewers. His visibility is such that Schultz considered a plea from North Dakota Democrats that he run for the Senate this year.

He savors his skewering of the right, but there was a time when he was one of them—a television sportscaster (after briefly making the roster of the Oakland Raiders) who became a talk-radio conservative, boosting Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. That began to change in 1992 after Schultz had his first date with the woman who ran the homeless shelter in Fargo. She had him grab a tray and wait on line for the Salvation Army lunch served to the downtrodden.  

“Ed was in his suit, dressed to the nines, surrounded by homeless people. He was mortified,” says Wendy Schultz, now his wife and the producer of his three-hour radio show, broadcast down the hall at Manhattan’s 30 Rock. “He had a very tender heart and was very easy to tip over.”  

“There are times I tell him he goes over the top and that TV is different than radio,” Griffin acknowledges. “A couple of times he’s crossed the line. I said, ‘Ed, you ran down the field 100 yards and you spiked the ball. Don’t spike the ball!’”

Schultz soon morphed into a left-wing prairie populist. “Some people believe it’s a made-up story, that it was about money, that he saw an opportunity as a liberal talk-show host,” says Schultz’s friend Don Haney, a reporter at KFGO radio. “But his conversion was genuine.” Haney says Schultz was a great colleague but “to be honest, he’s got a temper. There are some people who have drawn his wrath.”  

Article - Kurtz Ed Schultz Logan Mock-Bunting / Getty Images

In 2004, North Dakota Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan (whose campaign got a $2,000 donation from Schultz) recommended him to a national radio syndicator. Schultz borrowed $600,000 to keep the show alive (“We were nuts”) and bought a mobile home—festooned with ads for the North Dakota Farmers Union—to go on the road.  

But it wasn’t enough. Hungry to develop a television profile, Schultz borrowed an additional $150,000 for a satellite camera hookup for the occasional invitations from Larry King and other shows. The couple would watch cable news on a big-screen TV in their lakeside Minnesota home and Schultz would critique the hosts. “It just became an obsession with me,” he says.  

Fired up and ready to go after Obama’s election, Schultz and his wife got a place in Washington. When MSNBC President Phil Griffin spotted him at an Obama press conference—White House aides had placed him in the front row—he asked Schultz for a cup of coffee at Washington’s Four Seasons. “I just connected with him,” Griffin says. “I thought, ‘Holy cow, that guy is a live wire!’”

After a tryout, Griffin pressed Schultz to move to New York to start a 6 p.m. show. “You have to understand,” the new employee said, “I moved here to get this job!”    

One morning last week, the 56-year-old broadcaster is sitting in his small office—adorned with photos of him having killed a half-dozen pheasants at his snow-covered North Dakota ranch—as his producers debate whether to discuss the tax cuts with leadoff guest Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator. “He’s a pretty wound-up dude,” says Schultz, peering at the script through reading glasses. “He’ll say we’re making a mistake, we’re digging ourselves a hole.”  

Schultz eases behind the anchor desk in a studio barely larger than a walk-in closet—he switched from the main studio because he thinks the closer confines give him more intensity—and banters about the Minnesota Vikings until the red light goes on. When he opens the show with which stories “are hitting my hot buttons,” he bellows in almost comical fashion.  

After railing against the extension of the Bush tax cuts for 14 minutes—“the deal is with the devil!”—he welcomes Sanders, who gets all of 2 1/2 minutes before being hustled off. Sanders may have just conducted a nine-hour filibuster, but the show is mainly about Ed, who often ignores the prompter and wings it. He unloads on incoming House Speaker John Boehner for tearing up during a 60 Minutes interview: “Do you think he cries for the unemployed in this country, or the people in America who saw their jobs shipped overseas?”  

Schultz has little patience with those calling for greater civility. He savages his targets in a nightly “Psycho Talk” segment, calling Rush Limbaugh “the drugster,” Sarah Palin “Caribou Barbie,” and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie a “fat slob.” Rather than merely attack their ideology, Schultz says things like: “C'mon, Rush! Let's get it on!... Get away from your drugs. Go see the doctor and get some hearing. Maybe you could pick up a 19th girlfriend. Maybe you could try marriage again.” He has even said Limbaugh looks like Hitler.

Turns out the Rush grudge is personal. After the Today show did a story on him in 2004, Schultz recalls Limbaugh dismissing him as a $4-an-hour Fargo guy who would never make it. But in constantly carping on Limbaugh’s past addiction to painkillers, Schultz can sound as intolerant as any opponent.  

“There are times I tell him he goes over the top and that TV is different than radio,” Griffin acknowledges. “A couple of times he’s crossed the line. I said, ‘Ed, you ran down the field 100 yards and you spiked the ball. Don’t spike the ball!’” 

These days Schultz has been employing his invective against the White House, a stance he made clear during the presidential luncheon that also included the likes of Rachel Maddow, Arianna Huffington, and Frank Rich. The onetime conservative who lunged left is now frustrated by a president he finds insufficiently liberal.  

“His willingness to compromise has taken a lot of liberals by surprise,” Schultz says over a salmon dinner after strolling in the snow without a coat. “I think you can be in disagreement with a president you support without being disrespectful or nasty or snide.”  

Schultz, who first broke with Obama for dropping the public option from his health-care bill, tells viewers that “the Republicans have hoodwinked the president” on the tax deal and the process has been “un-American.” Such language allows him to avoid a frontal assault by painting Obama as misguided rather than malevolent.  

One thing is certain: The hunter remains loaded for bear. “Not to get too grandiose about it,” he tells me after demolishing dinner, “but I really believe I’m saying things a lot of Americans want someone to say.”

Howard Kurtz is The Daily Beast's Washington bureau chief. He also hosts CNN's weekly media program Reliable Sources on Sundays at 11 a.m. ET. The longtime media reporter and columnist for The Washington Post, Kurtz is the author of five books.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

44 - Haley Barbour: I don't remember the civil rights era being that bad

Posted at 2:59 PM ET, 12/20/2010 Haley Barbour: I don't remember the civil rights era being that bad By Matt DeLong The Fix called attention this morning to Haley Barbour's defense of his experience as a GOP lobbyist in the Weekly Standard's new profile of the Mississippi governor and potential 2012 candidate. But buried toward the end of the piece, the 63-year-old Barbour makes some more-eyebrow-raising comments in describing his home town of Yazoo City, Miss., during the civil rights era. As writer Andrew Ferguson describes the exchange: Both Mr. Mott and Mr. Kelly had told me that Yazoo City was perhaps the only municipality in Mississippi that managed to integrate the schools without violence. I asked Haley Barbour why he thought that was so. "Because the business community wouldn't stand for it," he said. "You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you'd lose it. If you had a store, they'd see nobody shopped there. We didn't have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City." In interviews Barbour doesn't have much to say about growing up in the midst of the civil rights revolution. "I just don't remember it as being that bad," he said. "I remember Martin Luther King came to town, in '62. He spoke out at the old fairground and it was full of people, black and white." Barbour said he went to the King speech, but couldn't hear very well and "paid more attention to the girls than to King." While others have held up Yazoo City's experience as a model for school integration, Barbour's critics have jumped on his assertion that he doesn't recall race relations in Mississippi in the early 1960s as being "that bad," as well as his praise for Citizens Councils. This isn't the first time Barbour has come under fire for his recollection of the civil rights era. During a recent interview with the conservative magazine Human Events, Barbour suggested that segregation was over by the time he went to college at Ole Miss in the mid-1960s and that the South's shift from Democratic to Republican dominance was not related to desegregation -- an assertion that Post columnist Eugene Robinson called the "biggest load of revisionist nonsense about race, politics and the South that I've ever heard." (Read a somewhat different account of life at Ole Miss from one of Barbour's black classmates here.) UPDATED at 3:29 p.m.: Barbour spokesman Dan Turner has responded to the uproar over the governor's comments in a fairly combative interview with TPM's Eric Kleefeld. "You're trying to paint the governor as a racist," [Turner] said. "And nothing could be further from the truth." [...] So, I asked Turner, does Barbour have any comment on the Citizen Council movement's basis in white supremacy, and its work of launching economic boycotts to cut off employment and business for African-Americans who became active for civil rights -- including that notable occasion in Yazoo City? "Gov. Barbour did not comment on the Citizens Council movement's history," Turner responded. "He commented on the business community in Yazoo City, Mississippi." David Halberstam wrote about the Citizens Council movement for Commentary in 1956, including this anecdote about the Yazoo City Citizens Council: "Look," said Nick Roberts of the Yazoo City Citizens Council, explaining why 51 of 53 Negroes who had signed an integration petition withdrew their names, "if a man works for you, and you believe in something, and that man is working against it and undermining it, why you don't want him working for you -- of course you don't." In Yazoo City, in August 1955, the Council members fired signers of the integration petition, or prevailed upon other white employers to get them fired. But the WCC continues to deny that it uses economic force: all the Council did in Yazoo City was to provide information (a full-page ad in the local weekly listing the "offenders"); spontaneous public feeling did the rest. User Poll: If Haley Barbour runs for president in 2012, will his comments on the civil-rights era be a problem for him? Yes, they show racial insensitivity No, he is only describing his personal experience view results This is a non-scientific user poll. Results are not statistically valid and cannot be assumed to reflect the views of Washington Post users as a group or the general population. This post has been updated to clarify Barbour's age and when he attended Ole Miss. By Matt DeLong | December 20, 2010; 2:59 PM ET Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency, Eye on 2012, Haley Barbourdiv class="posterous_quote_citation"> Check out this website I found at

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Robert Kuttner: The Stimulus That Isn't

On signing the tax-cut deal December 17, President Obama jubilantly declared "We are here with some good news for the American people this holiday season. This is progress and that's what they sent us here to achieve." So how have Republicans repaid Obama's willingness to meet them three-quarters of the way?

Bipartisanship evidently lasted about as long as the signing ceremony.

First Republicans refused to approve the routine stop-gap bill to keep the government funded at current levels pending the budget resolution and next round of appropriations. They killed the DREAM Act, for decent treatment of well-behaved children of undocumented immigrants. Repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell squeaked through the senate with the votes of a few socially moderate Republicans defying their leadership.

The Republicans on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, in a massive denial of reality, issued their own separate report, denying that the financial collapse had anything to do with deregulation or speculation. Coming along next is a set of Republican demands in the budget resolution for much deeper cutting of public outlay.

So it's clear that "bipartisanship," even on heavily Republican terms, produces no follow-through and no reciprocity. This is bipartisanship in the spirit of Neville Chamberlain. You give, and immediately they are after you for more.

It is astonishing how the Beltway echo-chamber, most egregiously the editorial page and news columns of the Washington Post (hard to tell the difference), thinks this deal is good for the Republic. The Post has become a cheerleader for policies that fail to cure the economy and show off Obama as a weakling waiting to be rolled again.

The tax deal, re-branded as a stimulus program, is paltry and ineffective as economic tonic. What hardly anyone seems to have grasped is that the deal basically continues the status quo with almost no stimulus.

If the tax rates on the books in 2010 did not produce a recovery, why should we expect that the very same rates will change the economy in 2011?

The deal not only continues 2010 income tax rates into 2011 and 2012. It actually increases estate taxes slightly, since estate taxes lapsed entirely for one year in 2010.

It also basically continues current unemployment benefits. Even the temporary 2-point tax break on Social Security taxes is a substitute for a more progressive and effective Obama tax break from the original stimulus of February 2009 that the Republicans refused to extend -- the Making Work Pay tax credit.

About the only new stimulus in the bill is a business tax break that increases the value of tax write-offs for new investment, valued at about $55 billion.

Does anyone seriously believe that a $55 billion net tax cut in a $15 trillion economy will have more than trivial effect?

Using Congressional Budget Office estimates of GDP growth, the deal might produce as many as two million jobs if businesses respond by investing more and consumers feel more confident about increasing their spending. Lovely, but the economy is currently short at least fifteen million jobs.

The small stimulus effect will soon be undermined by the spending cuts that are already the Republicans' next demand. Even the stopgap spending measure to continue spending next year at this year's levels, which Republicans just blocked, is already a cut when you factor in inflation. Deeper spending cuts, about to be imposed by incoming Republican House leaders, will overwhelm any stimulus effect of the tax deal.

Obama, according to well-placed sources, plans to introduce a "tax-simplification" scheme in the State of the Union address -- get rid of tax preferences and lower tax rates, as proposed by the Bowles-Simpson commission, with no net stimulative effect. This is a classic case of trying to change the subject. This might or might not be sensible policy depending on the specifics. But what ails the economy has little to do with the particulars of the tax code.

I don't understand how Obama's political advisers think this formula can produce his re-election. The tax deal was popular at a superficial level. Voters, when asked about the deal in a vacuum, apart from other economic issues, approve of bipartisan cooperation and they like tax relief when nothing else is on offer. (In that context, it's noteworthy that the one part of the tax deal that respondents to the ABC-Washington Post poll did not like was the temporary cut in payroll taxes. The vast majority of Americans don't want to weaken Social Security, even when the bait is tax relief.)

But such polls tell us nothing about the President's prospects for 2012. The 2010 off-year election was the second largest swing away from the incumbent party in the past 130 years (1930 produced a slightly worse swing against the Republicans), according to the political scientist Walter Dean Burnham. It was the worst mid-year swing against the Democrats ever.

Ground Zero of this disastrous defeat was the Midwest. This is hardly surprising, because the working middle class in the industrial heartland, which provisionally voted for Obama in 2008, is facing devastation in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The 2010 swing there was huge. Without carrying the heartland of the Midwest, Obama does not stand a prayer of re-election, even if the broad public says it approves of his bipartisanship.

But bipartisanship to what end? There is simply no way that the combination of upwardly tilted and puny tax breaks, spending cuts, and a re-jiggering of tax rates and loopholes is going to make a serious dent in either unemployment rates or underwater housing values in the Midwest.

Joblessness and losses of household assets in these states will continue at depression levels, even if the national unemployment comes down modestly.

Obama and his advisers are left with the vain hope that Republicans will nominate someone so lunatic that Obama will somehow squeak through. But be careful what you wish for. I vividly remember 1980, when some Democrats cheered the nomination of Ronald Reagan because he was too rightwing to get elected.

The watershed year 2008 was a political moment when an incoming Democratic president had all the raw material for a dramatic break with the old order -- when Republicans, Wall Street, and laissez-faire ideology were primed to take a richly deserved fall for the economic collapse.

Obama chose not to pursue that course. Instead, he identified himself with reviving Wall Street and pursued a feckless bipartisanship and a feeble recovery program.

Last spring, Obama and his aides were on the road assuring everyone that the administration's economic program would produce a "Recovery Summer," which never came. Now, Obama is repeating the mistake. Adviser Larry Summers' valedictory message is that the even weaker tonic of the tax deal will somehow restore economic jobs and growth. Crying recovery, when recovery doesn't come, is even riskier than crying wolf.

Six months from now, when the economy is still in the doldrums, either Obama or some other Democrat had better stand up for a real economic recovery program -- or no Republican will be too grizzly to be elected president in 2012.

Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect and a senior fellow at Demos.

His latest book is A Presidency in Peril.

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